One Million Afghan Refugees to Have Legal Status in Pakistan

Afghan refugees sit outside their tent in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photo: UNHCR/A. Shahzad
Afghan refugees sit outside their tent in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photo: UNHCR/A. Shahzad

A new pilot project in Pakistan to register undocumented Afghan refugees would allow up to one million people to have legal status, the United Nations refugee agency said. These refugees did not have identity papers and they were living in fear of being arrested or deported.

“This significant step will help regularize the stay for many Afghans at a time when return to their home country may not be possible,” Duniya Aslam Khan, spokesperson at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said at the UN’s Geneva Office.

The six-month registration programme started last week in the capital Islamabad and Peshwar, in the north-west, which hosts the largest number of undocumented Afghans. The programme is expected to be rolled out throughout the country starting on 16 August.

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Afghans registered under the new scheme receive African Citizen cards, which allow them to legally stay in Pakistan until the Government of Afghanistan can issue them passports and other documents, and provides protections under Pakistani law.

“The initiative will bring much needed relief for many Afghan families where some were registered refugees, while others had no legal status,” Ms. Khan said.

The registration project comes after three years of consultations between the Governments, and is part of Pakistan’s Comprehensive Policy on the Repatriation and Management of Afghans, which was endorsed by its cabinet in February this year.

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Rakesh Raman