Pakistan begins issuing new cards to 1.6 million Afghan refugees

Briefing Notes, 25 February 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 February 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Government of Pakistan, with UNHCR assistance, has begun issuing new refugee cards to more than 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees. These Proof of Registration cards are valid till the end of 2015.

Pakistan's Cabinet decided in July of 2013 to further extend the temporary stay of Afghan refugees. The refugee card is important as it provides for Afghans to legally remain in Pakistan and thereby protects against risks such as extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention as well as deportation under Pakistan's Foreigner's Act.

Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) launched the countrywide project earlier this month. The process will be carried out in two phases: during February-June 2014 all expired cards will be replaced. In the second phase, from July to the end of the year, Pakistan will register and issue individual cards to some 150,000 children born during the past five years An additional 330,000 Afghan children below the age of eighteen will receive birth certificates for the first time under this initiative. UNHCR welcomes the issuance of birth certificates as this offers important protection for refugee children as it helps to prevents statelessness, makes it easy for children to access social services and basic rights such as school enrolment, and allows or the issuance of documentation.

The implementation of the card renewal exercise is a result of continuous cooperation between the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and is aimed to secure the protection of Afghan refugees in Pakistan which remains the world's largest refugee hosting nation. In all there are 2.6 million Afghan refugees worldwide, the majority hosted in Pakistan and Iran.

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