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December 30, 2014

Sindh home to 67,000 registered Afghan refugees

 
December 30, 2014

Karachi
Sixty-seven thousand Afghan refugees are settled in Sindh. Most of them live in Karachi and have been issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards by the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra). Out of them, around 5,000 refugees returned to Afghanistan last year. Refugees from Somalia and other countries also live in Karachi but they are very few in number.
This was stated by Duniya Aslam Khan, the associate communications officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) during an awareness session for journalists on UNHCR’s global mandate and operation in Pakistan on Monday.
Talking about operations of the UNHCR in Pakistan, she said the commission provided free legal aid to registered Afghan refugees living in the country.
“The UNHCR has started Refugee Affected Hosting Area (RAHA) in 2009 to improve the lives of people living in locations affected by the presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan,” she said.
“The programme is a major element of the new regional strategy on Afghan refugees agreed upon by Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan with the UNHCR.”
She told the session that RAHA programme, which included health and educational facilities, was being implemented in recognition of the tradition of hospitality in Pakistan towards Afghan refugees by boosting essential services in areas where refugees used to live or are currently living, helping locals and refugees alike.
Answering a question, Khan said Pakistan started the registration process of Afghan refugees in 2005, after 35 years of their arrival in Pakistan.
So far, she said, six registration centres are operational across the country for this purpose and the PoR cards provided to them extended the right of legal stay in Pakistan and protection from forcible return to Afghanistan.
Maya Ameratunga, UNHCR’s acting representative, said: “It is important to clearly distinguish these two populations in all policy decisions and

public debates. The PoR card holders are refugees who have fled Afghanistan because of armed conflict or serious violations of human rights and are protected under international laws and Pakistani government’s national policy on Afghan refugees. On the other hand, unregistered Afghans do not enjoy any protected status in Pakistan and fall under the jurisdiction of the 1946 Foreigners Act under which they are illegal migrants against which the host government has a sovereign right to take action.”
She called for better border and migration management by both, Pakistani and Afghan governments for curbing cross-border movement.
She pointed out that refugees were collateral damage of war, persecution and terrorism in their homelands and should not be collectively victimised by attempts of forcible eviction from Pakistan.
She used the occasion to appeal to all political actors on behalf of the UNHCR to refrain from making innocent refugees scapegoats for the heinous acts of terrorism recently committed at the army school in Peshawar.
She said UNHCR urged all registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan to carry their PoR cards with them at all times and advised them to cooperate with the law-enforcement authorities when approached by them.
“Those refugees who have not yet renewed their expired PoR cards are urged to do so before the deadline of 31 December 2014, or they will no longer be considered as refugees from January 2015,” she said.
She observed that Pakistan was host to some 1.5 million Afghan refugees, while 3.8 million had returned since 2002 under the UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme – which she said was the world’s largest ‘return operation’.
“Around 37 percent of the registered Afghan refugees are residing in refugee villages while the rest live outside them,” she added.

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