As the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), I am proud to lead a dedicated team that promotes U.S. interests by providing protection, easing suffering, and resolving the plight of persecuted and forcibly displaced people around the world. In 2019, we provided $3.3 billion in humanitarian assistance, most of which supported displaced people overseas to meet their needs close to their homes until they can safely and voluntarily return home. In countries like Pakistan, we use U.S. assistance to build on the generosity of host communities who often support large numbers of refugees fleeing persecution in their homelands.
Last month, I attended the “International Conference on 40 Years of Hosting Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity” in Islamabad. During my visit, I witnessed firsthand the Pakistani communities that serve as generous hosts to 1.4 million Afghan refugees who have fled one of the world’s most protracted crisis situations. For forty years, the people of Pakistan and their leaders have committed themselves to the safety and security of Afghan refugees fleeing violence and persecution. Since 2006, Pakistan has issued 1.4 million Proof of Registration cards that provide Afghan refugees with the legal right to live there. Access to this protection tool has been extended through June 2020. Also, Pakistan’s efforts to allow Afghan refugees to open bank accounts has helped encourage self-reliance.
"We thank #Pakistan for their generosity in hosting >1.4M Afghan refugees over the past 40 years, providing safety & security for those seeking refuge from violence & persecution," said A/AS O'Connell at the #RefugeeSummit. #BrightandPeacefulPakistan #40yearsOfAfgRefugeesInPak pic.twitter.com/xqlibCytrf
— U.S. Embassy Islamabad (@usembislamabad) February 17, 2020
It is important to recognize the work of the U.S. government on behalf of the American people in responding to the Afghan refugee crisis. For decades, PRM has upheld America’s robust tradition of generosity in humanitarian assistance and expertise in humanitarian diplomacy. We coordinate humanitarian policy and diplomacy, provide life-sustaining assistance, work with multilateral organizations to build global partnerships, and promote best practices in humanitarian response. For example, we have provided nearly $3.4 billion in humanitarian assistance to support displaced Afghans in Afghanistan and throughout the region. With this funding we have supported the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency and non-governmental organizations to help educate children, provide health care, and protect the most vulnerable.
Another highlight of my visit to Pakistan was a meeting with Afghan refugee children in Pakistan. These children receive education via U.S.-supported programs. My Bureau believes that learning improves the well-being of displaced children and creates a foundation for future success.
I also visited a U.S. government-funded World Health Organization (WHO) project. With our support, WHO delivers assistive devices to elderly and disabled Afghan refugees, allowing them to more actively participate in society with dignity.
We also work on the other side of the border, in Afghanistan, to create conditions that will allow for the safe return of those who wish to go home. While the situation in Afghanistan remains fragile, we call on all countries to refrain from forcing the return of Afghans. Any large-scale involuntary returns could overwhelm communities and create instability that might undermine broader efforts to achieve a lasting peace through a political settlement. When Afghan refugees can return home safely and voluntarily, we will assist with the return and will continue to support the reintegration of returning Afghans into their communities.
Since 2001, the U.S. govt has provided nearly $3.4B in humanitarian assistance to aid displaced Afghans, supporting UNHCR @Refugees & NGO efforts to provide education, health care, & protection for the most vulnerable.” Read the #RefugeeSummit speech here: https://t.co/7x9MjmUwbA pic.twitter.com/ry50uXmNbZ
— U.S. Embassy Islamabad (@usembislamabad) February 18, 2020
We will continue to support Pakistan’s host communities and advocate for the international community to assist Pakistan and other host countries to protect vulnerable Afghan refugees. We also urge the international community to continue its robust support for Afghan refugees and ask all host countries to continue providing a safe environment to Afghans who cannot safely return. At the same time, we encourage all partners to support Afghanistan’s efforts to create a peaceful and stable Afghanistan ready to welcome all of its citizens home.
In closing, I would like to reiterate our appreciation for Pakistan’s efforts and its continued support of Afghan refugees until they can return home voluntarily and safely. It was great to have the opportunity to meet with our partners, and I hope you have enjoyed getting to know about our work in this corner of the world.
Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood welcomed U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Carol Thompson O’Connell.
Highlighted Pakistan’s hospitality to the millions of Afghan refugees for last 40 years. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/XzreGAgopt
— Spokesperson 🇵🇰 MoFA (@ForeignOfficePk) February 20, 2020
About the Author: Carol Thompson O’Connell serves as the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State