ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Sunday called for greater global sharing of responsibility for refugees as the international community observes a day designated to honor the world’s displaced people.
World Refugee Day was held globally for the first time on June 20, 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It is observed in a tribute to the millions of people uprooted from their countries as a result of conflict, war and natural disasters.
Pakistan is the third largest refugee-hosting country after Turkey and Colombia and hosts 1.4 million registered refugees from neighboring war-torn Afghanistan. The actual number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is considered to be much higher.
"The people of Pakistan have contributed more than their fair share of shouldering an international responsibility by hosting millions of refugees," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a statement, as he called for "greater global responsibility-sharing."
"For over four decades, Pakistan has led by example in refugee protection. Pakistan has been one of the world’s largest refugee hosting countries. Pakistan still hosts around 3 million Afghans providing them necessary protection," he said, adding that the "pre-pandemic and COVID-compounded socio-economic and health challenges especially for developing countries that host millions of refugees necessitate global political and financial support that meets the needs of host communities and large refugee populations."
United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) Asia and the Pacific director Indrika Ratwatte also recognized Pakistan's role and called for more support.
"Together, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran continue to host 13% of the global total refugee population," she said in a tweet. "The generosity of these host countries and their people, even in the midst of a pandemic needs to be recognized and supported."
There are more refugees today than there have ever been, the UNHCR reports, despite movement restrictions imposed by countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights violations in 2020 rose to nearly 82.4 million," UNHCR said in a statement, adding that the number was representing a “4% increase on top of the already record-high 79.5 million at the end of 2019.”