UNHCR welcomes registration of a million undocumented Afghans in Pakistan

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Duniya Aslam Khan to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Afghan refugees hold up cards providing proof of registration, in Maach, Pakistan in 2008. A new pilot programme that began this week is issuing citizen cards to undocumented Afghans in Pakistan.   © UNHCR/DAKhan

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes the pilot launched this week of the Pakistan government’s programme to register undocumented Afghans living in the country, currently estimated between 600,000 to one million.

This significant step will help regularize the stay for many Afghans at a time when return to their home country may not be possible.

Afghans registered under this new scheme will receive Afghan Citizen (AC) cards, providing them legal protection from arbitrary arrests, detention or deportation under Pakistan’s Foreigner’s Act. The AC cards will allow Afghans to stay in Pakistan for the time being, until they can be issued documents, such as passports, by the Government of Afghanistan. The initiative will bring much needed relief for many Afghan families where some were registered refugees, while others had no legal status.

The registration of undocumented Afghans follows three years of consultations between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and UNHCR. It forms part of Pakistan’s Comprehensive Policy on the Repatriation and Management of Afghans, which was endorsed by its cabinet in February this year. Other components of the plan include: extending the validity of the Proof of Registration cards to some 1.4 million registered Afghans refugees until the end of 2017; a commitment to adopt a national refugee law; and a visa regime for different categories of Afghan refugees who have the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.

The six-month registration programme began yesterday (20 July) with the launch of a pilot in the country’s capital Islamabad and the north-western city of Peshawar, which hosts the largest number of undocumented of Afghans. The programme is expected to be rolled out in all four provinces from 16 August.

Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Ministry of States and Frontier Regions and the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation will oversee the project with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR.

UNHCR will assist IOM with its information campaign in reaching out information to Afghan communities residing in Pakistan as well as ensuring that Afghans with international protection needs are referred to UNHCR.

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