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India successfully integrating Afghan refugees
September 13, 2006 02:08 IST
"There are 8,500 Afghan refugees of Hindu and Sikh origin. We want them to be naturalised. The government of India is in the process of locally integrating them," said Carol Batchelor, Chief of Mission of the UN High Commission for Refugees.
"It is only a matter of time before they are given passports," Batchelor said in her keynote address this evening at the finals of an inter-school debate. Though most Afghan refugees wanted to go back to their country, voluntary repatriation was impossible as the situation there was not yet conducive to their return.
India has made laudable efforts in integrating and resettling refugees by giving them the right to education and assimilation, she said.
Pointing out that there were 8.4 million refugees, including a large number of women, children and elderly, worldwide, she said 80 per cent of them wanted to return to their country of origin but could not for various reasons.
"Our experience has been that countries which are emerging out of conflict fall back into conflict within five years. This is a major reason why refugees from those places cannot be repatriated," Batchelor said.
The debate on "Refugees should have the right to work" was organised by the West Bengal Federation of United Nations Associations with UNHCR.