UN refugee agency assists Pakistan in first registration of remaining Afghans
The United Nations refugee agency is assisting Pakistani authorities with the first-ever registration of Afghans living in Pakistan – there are still 2.4 million – which will result in official identification cards and yield valuable information for continued repatriation efforts.
The 10-week exercise, the largest such operation the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has ever been involved in, began 15 October and runs until 31 December, with the UN in both a supporting and monitoring role in the process that will collected bio-data, fingerprints and digital photographs.
“The registration will give us a clear profile of the Afghans who remain in Pakistan [and] the information collected - areas of origin, education and skill levels, special needs and intention to return - will help UNHCR and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to find durable solutions to this protracted situation,” said agency spokesperson Ron Redmond at the press briefing Friday in Geneva.
Even after more than 2.8 million Afghans returned home over the last five years Pakistan still hosts one of the largest groups of refugees in the world; there are 1 million Afghans living in camps and more than 1.4 million living in urban areas.
The registration is being conducted by Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and is a follow-up to the 2005 census of Afghans who had arrived in Pakistan after 1 December 1979 to escape the Soviet invasion of their homeland.
Only those included in the census can register, which will provide a ‘proof of registration’ card, valid for three years, which recognises the bearer as an Afghan citizen temporarily living in Pakistan. It does not confer any additional rights or status.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR’s last convoy for the year of returnees left Pakistan Thursday, concluding a repatriation season that saw more than 132,000 Afghans return home with UNHCR assistance. Repatriation from Pakistan will resume next March with new arrangements tied to the 'proof of registration' card.
UNHCR’s assistance reflects its “efforts to develop proactive strategies to address issues linked to long-term situations of asylum, migration and mixed population flows,” Mr. Redmond added.