The United Nations refugee agency today welcomed Pakistan’s decision to continue extending hospitality for the next three years to some 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees living within its borders.
Since 2006, Pakistan has registered Afghan citizens living in Pakistan, providing them with official identification, but the details for renewing the Proof of Registration cards have yet to be clarified.
Pakistan has informed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that its Government will soon finalize a decision on the Management and Repatriation Strategy for Afghan Refugees from 2010 to 2012.
Until then, the Government assured UNHCR that registered Afghan refugees will be accorded due protection, free of harassment.
The assurances given by Pakistan “will help remove the concerns and anxiety among the registered Afghan population in Pakistan,” said Khassim Diagne, Officer-in-charge for UNHCR, calling the move a “gesture of continued generosity from the Government and people of Pakistan.”
The management of stay for Afghans in Pakistan and their voluntary return are governed by a Tripartite Agreement signed between Pakistan, Afghanistan and UNHCR. Under that pact, the three parties have agreed in principle to extend the stay of registered Afghans in Pakistan beyond 31 December.
UNHCR announced earlier this month that continued violence in Afghanistan, along with limited economic opportunities and political insecurity, were preventing many refugees living in Pakistan from returning to their homeland.
More than 2 million Afghans were registered in Pakistan in 2007 by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) with financial and technical assistance from UNHCR. Currently there are some 1.7 million registered Afghans living in camps and urban centres in Pakistan. More than 3.5 million Afghans have returned home under a UNHCR facilitated voluntary return programme since 2002.