On June 16, 2023, the International Center for Refugees and Migration Studies (ICRMS) organized its second public lecture at the National Institute of Management Sciences (NIMS) in Quetta, Pakistan. The lecture titled “UNHCR’s Organizational Mandate, Operations, and Interventions in Balochistan” was delivered by Mr. Arkadiy Leibovsky, a senior protection officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
During the lecture, Mr. Leibovsky provided a comprehensive overview of UNHCR’s global and regional contexts, highlighting the organization’s work in hosting Afghan refugees in Pakistan over the past four decades. Pakistan has been one of the top countries providing hospitality to a large number of refugees. The speaker discussed the history of refugees and the establishment of international agencies and protection regimes following World War I to address the legal settlement and protection of refugees. He explained the core principles of UNHCR and the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, outlining who can and cannot be considered a refugee according to international organizations and emphasizing the need for special protection for refugees under international law.
Moreover, Mr. Leibovsky elaborated on the history of refugees in Pakistan since its inception in 1947, including the migration of Muslims from India to Pakistan, the influx of Bengali refugees after the fall of Dhaka in 1971, and the arrival of Afghan refugees in 1979, 2001, 2021, and onwards.
In the latter part of the lecture, Mr. Leibovsky focused on Balochistan, providing insights into UNHCR’s organizational mandate and its operations and interventions in the province. He discussed various areas of UNHCR’s interventions, such as social welfare, capacity building, legal assistance, community-based protection, protection against gender-based violence (GBV), and child protection. He emphasized that UNHCR provides protection and assistance to both refugees and host communities during natural disasters, exemplifying their response to last year’s floods in which they provided first aid and psychological support to both affected host and refugee populations.
In conclusion, Mr. Leibovsky expressed that Pakistan always endeavors to find solutions for those forced to leave their homes. He emphasized the collaborative efforts between UNHCR and the Government of Pakistan to improve the situation, despite the country facing political and economic crises. He mentioned their work towards durable solutions through voluntary repatriation, acknowledging that this process may take time but will eventually be realized.
At the end of the session, Dr. Rahila Umer, Director of ICRMS and Associate Professor at BUITEMS, presented a souvenir to Mr. Arkadiy Leibovsky and Mr. Aslam Ghani, expressing gratitude on behalf of ICRMS for the informative and fruitful session.