Pakistan extends validity of registration cards for 1.7 million Afghans

Briefing Notes, 26 March 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 26 March 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has welcomed Pakistan's decision to allow 1.7 million registered Afghans to remain in the country for three more years, alongside continued voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan. For the past three decades, Pakistan has shown strong commitment to the protection of Afghan refugees, who have been caught in one of the world's most protracted refugee situations. Pakistan remains host to the largest refugee population in the world under UNHCR's care.

The new Strategy for the Management of Afghans in Pakistan, which was endorsed on Wednesday by the cabinet of the Pakistan government, includes the extension until the end of 2012 of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards. These cards are issued to registered Afghan refugees. The existing PoR cards, which expired on December 31 last year, will be replaced with new cards with enhanced identification features.

The card is an important form of identification for Afghan refugees proving their legal right of stay in the country, and therefore giving important protection against possible detention or deportation particularly during 'crackdowns' against foreigners and suspected illegal immigrants in the wake of terror incidents.

More than 3.5 million Afghans have returned home from Pakistan with UNHCR's help since 2002 while more than a million others have returned by their own means. The voluntary repatriation operation resumed this week after the winter recess, from UNHCR centres in the North West Frontier Province city of Peshawar and in Quetta in the southern province of Balochistan. UNHCR remains committed to continuing its work with the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to find lasting solutions for Afghan refugees.

The new Strategy for the Management of Afghans in Pakistan also extends the Tripartite Commission Agreement between UNHCR, Pakistan and Afghanistan for another three years as the gradual repatriation of Afghans continues in safety and dignity and in line with the security situation and capacity of Afghanistan to absorb returning refugees.

UNHCR will mobilize additional support for local communities in Pakistan that have hosted Afghan refugees. This will see problems like environmental degradation and the rehabilitation of infrastructure and social services addressed through the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas programme -- a $140 million programme implemented by a number of UN agencies over 5 years.

In his statement yesterday UNHCR's High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres called on the international community to strengthen its support to Pakistan for the hosting of Afghan refugees. Pakistan's new strategy also includes arrangements for some of the unregistered Afghans and paves the way for a broader border management strategy. A visa regime will manage the stay of business people, students and other categories. Families headed by women who have lost male breadwinners will be allowed to stay.




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Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

The cycle of life has started again in Afghanistan as returnees put their shoulders to the wheel to rebuild their war-torn country.

Return is only the first step on Afghanistan's long road to recovery. UNHCR is helping returnees settle back home with repatriation packages, shelter kits, mine-awareness training and vaccination against diseases. Slowly but surely, Afghans across the land are reuniting with loved ones, reconstructing homes, going back to school and resuming work. A new phase in their lives has begun.

Watch the process of return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction unfold in Afghanistan through this gallery.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

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