PESHAWAR: Around 250,000 Afghans have entered Pakistan during the last one year while only 900 of them returned to Afghanistan in the last six months under the voluntary repatriation programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Around 2,176 cases were registered against Afghan nationals in Peshawar for lacking the required documents for their stay. Normally, they are deported to their country after being arrested under the Foreigners Act.
“According to the government, around 250,000 Afghans seeking asylum are reported to have arrived in Pakistan since January 2021. Most of them arrived after August last year,” Qaisar Khan Afridi, spokesperson for the UNHCR, told The News.
A large number of the Afghans, including women and children, have approached embassies of different countries in Islamabad to seek asylum. Most of them have left their country due to uncertainty, unemployment, food insecurity and lack of other amenities of life.
According to the UNHCR, around 1.3 million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan, mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have arrived in Pakistan due to the four decades long war in their country. Many of them returned to their homeland in the past years.
“The UNHCR is currently discussing with the government of Pakistan the way forward on registration and documentation of asylum-seekers, predominantly from Afghanistan,” said Qaisar Afridi. He said they hoped the current challenges would be addressed with the continuous engagement and support of the government of Pakistan.
“As far as the voluntary return is concerned, some 900 Afghans have returned to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme since January 2022. All the repatriated families receive a grant on arrival in Afghanistan to support them as they rebuild their lives and communities,” Qaisar informed.
Around 97,642 Afghans had returned from Pakistan to their homeland in 2017 while 248,054 had returned in 2016.
The process of voluntary return has slowed down in the last many months due to the conditions in Afghanistan.
According to the officials, the UNHCR provides financial support, i.e. 250 US dollars, for families upon return to Afghanistan. The official said the UNHCR advocated that returns need to be voluntary and take place in conditions of safety, dignity and security.
There are hundreds of thousands of Afghans living in Peshawar and other parts of the country for decades. However, some of them were arrested during search operations for not having either any proof as refugees or any travel document to legalize their stay.
“The Peshawar police have lodged 2176 cases against over 2500 Afghan nationals in the last six months for not having a visa, POR card or any document to legalize their stay,” Mohammad Ilyas, the spokesman for the Peshawar Police, told The News.
The arrest and deportation of a few Afghan artists was criticised much on social media in the recent days after they fled their country due to restrictions.
There are reports that those who are still in Afghanistan have been facing numerous challenges for the last many months. People, even the rich families in Afghanistan, are suffering as they are short of cash to buy necessities.
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