Number of Afghans in Pakistan registered in UN-backed operation to pass 2 million

Number of Afghans in Pakistan registered in UN-backed operation to pass 2 million

The number of Afghans in Pakistan registered by Pakistani authorities assisted by the United Nations refugee agency has passed the two million mark today, yielding further information for continued repatriation efforts for those who fled decades of conflict in their homeland.

“The 2 million people registered since the start of the exercise in October 2006 account for over 80 percent of the target population of 2.4 million Afghans in Pakistan,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva on 2 February.

He said the number of Afghans registered by the government of Pakistan with support from UNHCR would pass the 2 million mark on Friday following the resumption of the registration operation after the break for Ashura and Muharram, the recent religious festivals.

Nearly 65 per cent of those registered are in North West Frontier Province (NWFP); 20 per cent in Balochistan; 10 per cent in Punjab/Islamabad; 5 per cent in Sindh and the rest in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Registration is conducted by Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) with help from the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees and UNHCR.

The exercise has been completed in large parts of the country. It is scheduled to finish by mid-February in the remaining sites in Islamabad, NWFP and Balochistan, Mr. Redmond said.

Only Afghans who were counted in the Pakistan government census of February/March 2005 are eligible for registration. Those registered receive Proof of Registration cards that recognize them as Afghan citizens temporarily living in Pakistan. The Proof of Registration cards have a validity of three years.

“We’re now in the final phase of registration,” said Indrika Ratwatte, the UNHCR official in charge of the registration. “NADRA is enhancing the capacity in the remaining centres to process as many eligible Afghans as quickly as possible. Where needed, mobile registration vans have also been deployed to ease the pressure on these centres, and to reach out to isolated pockets of Afghans who need to be registered.”

In addition to the issuance of Proof of Registration cards, the $6 million registration exercise is collecting key data on the remaining Afghan population in Pakistan in order to seek durable solutions to their long-term displacement.