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.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Islamabad, Duniya Aslam Khan on mobile +92 300 5017939
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106



UNHCR country pages

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Aqeela Asifi, an Afghan refugee living in Pakistan, has been named the 2015 winner of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award. Asifi has dedicated her adult life to educating refugee girls. Despite minimal resources and significant cultural challenges, hundreds of girls have now passed through her school, equipped with life-long skills and brighter hopes for their futures.

Asifi fled from Kabul in 1992 with her young family. They found refuge in the desolate Kot Chandana refugee village in the south-eastern Punjab province of Pakistan. Adjusting from life in a capital city and working as a teacher, to living in a dusty refugee village was difficult. She was especially struck by the total absence of schools for girls.

It took time but eventually Asifi was allowed to start a small school under a tent. Over the years the school expanded and received the hard-won backing of community elders. Asifi's dedication has helped guide more than 1,000 girls through to the eighth grade and encouraged more schools to open in the village. Another 1,500 young people (900 girls, 650 boys) are enrolled in six schools throughout the refugee village today.

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Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

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Afghan Refugees in Iran

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It will benefit refugee returnees to Afghanistan as well as 3 million Afghan refugees, including 1 million in Iran and 1.7 million in Pakistan.

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