Pakistan: Afghan screening 2nd phase to begin
The second phase of the joint UNHCR/Pakistan screening programme, which will determine the refugee status of thousands of Afghans who have fled to north-west Pakistan in recent months as result of renewed fighting and severe drought in Afghanistan, is scheduled to begin tomorrow (29 August). Afghans have responded favourably to the exercise, turning out in big numbers to register and provide general information on their families and places of origin. During the first phase, some 21,029 families were processed at the two screening centres in Jalozai and Nasir Bagh near Peshawar city in North-west Pakistan in just less than three weeks. A total of 14,564 families have registered and will go to the next phase of the screening exercise, while 6,465 families have opted for voluntary repatriation. Afghans who have registered will be called for interviews to determine their status while those who have expressed the wish to return home will receive an aid package.
UNHCR and Pakistan reached an agreement to establish a joint screening programme on 3 August. Fifty-five joint teams are on standby to begin interviewing all Afghans who have registered. Those found to be in need of protection will be granted a temporary legal status in Pakistan. All those accepted will be transferred from Jalozai and Nasir Bagh to the camp at New Shamshatoo, where they will be provided assistance by UNHCR and its partners. Negotiations are continuing between UNHCR and Pakistani authorities to identify further sites.
Afghans whose case is rejected will have the right to appeal, but once a final decision is made, they would have to return home. Especially vulnerable people from drought-affected areas would be given a temporary humanitarian stay until conditions improve in their villages.