Monday July 15, 2024

‘Smart cards issued to over 1 million registered Afghans after verification’

By Jamila Achakzai
June 04, 2022

Islamabad: After verifying and updating Afghan refugee records in a months-long countrywide exercise, the first in the last 10 years, the federal government has issued smart identity cards to more than one million registered Afghan nationals to ensure their better access to educational, health and banking services and property rental.

Officials say the smart cards, which are valid until June 30 next year, carry biometric data and are technologically compatible with systems used in Pakistan to authenticate the identities of nationals to enable them to avail themselves of facilities. They're issued to the refugees with Proof of Registration cards as a result of the Documentation Renewal and Information Verification Exercise (DRIVE), as the activity is officially known, which was carried out from April to December last year by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions and the Chief Commissionerate Commissioner for Afghan Refugees with the support of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and technical assistance of the National Database and Registration Authority.

Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Muhammad Saleem Khan told 'The News' that the data of Afghans living in Pakistan had not been updated for 10 years, so it was imperative to verify and update it to enable authorities to understand the current needs of refugees to ensure their better, faster and safer access to critical services.

"Close to one million smart identity cards have been issued to date with validity until June 30, 2023, with children under the age of five included in their parents’ cards," he said. According to him, the DRIVE also provided an opportunity for Afghan refugees to flag specific protection needs or vulnerabilities.

"Detailed information about the refugees’ socioeconomic circumstances will allow us to help them for self-reliance in Pakistan and offer more tailored support to those willing to return as conditions in Afghanistan allow," he said.

According to him, around 600 Pakistani government and UNHCR's employees worked at around 35 sites around the country and on mobile registration vehicles to support refugees throughout the DRIVE. Both male and female staff members were on hand to assist.

Over 40 verification sites were operational across the country during the exercise, while mobile registration vans facilitated verifications for Afghan refugees living in remote areas. A mass information campaign was also carried out to explain to Afghan refugees the purpose of the campaign and how to participate in it.

The refugee verification exercise reveals that more than half (52 per cent) of the Afghans registered in Pakistan are children, including 197,428 (15 per cent) aged four or under, and only four per cent of the registered refugees are 60 or above.

Overall, women, children and the elderly represent 76 per cent of the refugee population half of which live in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.