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Conference on Refugees in the Muslim World

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Jeddah: The Organization of  Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is organizing, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an international conference on “Refugees in the Muslim World” to promote and create conditions for sustainable voluntary repatriation and reintegration of refugees in their country of origin. The conference will take place in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, on May 10-11, 2012, at the ministerial level with the participation of over 500 representatives from all OIC member states, 40 international and regional organizations, 70 NGOs as well as observers from 21 countries including the US, Russia, Australia and China. One of the main themes of the conference is that voluntary repatriation is the more preferred durable solution for the refugees’ problem. This is a particularly  important issue for the OIC member states which host the largest number of refugees in the world, approximately 18 million people. In Afghanistan, 3.5 million people have returned to their homes after years of displacement during which  they were hosted by countries in the region, especially Pakistan and Iran. This is the largest repatriation movement in UNHCR history. UNHCR has provided returnees with initial aid for their reintegration in their country of origin, but greater efforts are needed by development actors to tackle the underlying problem of poverty, in order to consolidate and ensure the sustainability of return. In southern Sudan, following recent political developments, there is growing hope that the 500,000 Sudanese refugees,  presently in eight neighbouring countries and the millions of internally displaced persons will be able to return home. The main challenge in all these repatriation movements is how to ensure the sustainability of return, so that returning refugees do not feel compelled to leave their home countries again owing to a precarious economic, social or security situation.