United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged Pakistan for cooperation on clarifying the fate of 2.5 million Afghan refugees.
UNHCR wants Islamabad to renew the so-called Proof of Registration (PoR) cards for registered Afghan refugees because they expired in December but were granted six month extensions by the host government until June, 2016.
UN refugee agency believes that registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan “still continue to need asylum and protection and that is the importance of the PoR because it is a document that validates and legitimates their presence in this country in a way that enables them to receive protection in a predictable manner.”
George Okoth-Obbo, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner said his agency was engaged in “continuing discussions” with the Pakistani government to resolve the population’s uncertain situation.
“We await with a lot of interest the decision of the government on those questions,” Okoth-Obbo told Reuters during a Friday visit to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, home to a large Afghan population.
In December, registration cards providing temporary legal stay to more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees expired, and were granted a six-month extension by the government.
But Afghans say they are hassled by police for carrying the expired cards, and members of the estimated one million Afghans who are still unregistered also face difficulties with the authorities, aid workers say.
Pakistan is currently hosting 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees; the largest protracted refugee population globally, of which 67 per cent live in urban and peri-urban areas, while 33 per cent remain in special refugee villages. Within Pakistan, some 1 million registered Afghan refugees reside in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Since 2002, more than 3.8 million Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan, assisted through the largest voluntary repatriation programme in UNHCR’s history.
In the meantime, deputy of the minister of refugees and repatriation said that based on Afghan and Pakistan’s agreement; the issue of Afghan migrants stay in Pakistan will be extended for another two years.
“It is scheduled that the minsiter of refugees to visit Pakistan in the near future to solve this problem,” said adviser of minister of refugees.”We are waiting for Pakistan’s response and we hope that Pakistan to extended the presence of Afghan migrants in its country for another two years.”
Many Afghans living in Pakistan have been living in the country for decades and contribute significantly to the country’s labour force.