ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) with the support of the UN Refugee Agency have successfully delivered new Proof of Registration (PoR) cards with a validity date of 31 December 2015 to 50 per cent of the total 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
Launched in February this year, following the decision by the Government of Pakistan in July 2013 to extend the validity of the PoR cards, the first phase of the PoR card renewal project is scheduled to conclude on 30 June 2014. To date, more than 668,000 Afghan refugees have received their new PoR cards through a total of 34 distribution centres and Mobile Registration Vans operating across Pakistan.In the second phase of the project, from 2 July until the end of 2014, NADRA will register some 150,000 children born to registered parents in the past five years. Moreover, some 182,000 children who have reached the age of five years since the last exercise and who are already registered with their parents, will now receive their individual PoR cards.Neill Wright, Representative of UNHCR in Pakistan, urged all registered Afghans who have not yet renewed their PoR cards to do so without further delay. Mr Wright lauded NADRA for implementing a smooth and efficient renewal project.
The Representative said “I am pleased to see the progress of the PoR card renewal project and am optimistic that NADRA and UNHCR will be able to conclude the project on time.” He however, noted that the attachment of rights to the possession of PoR cards, such as to be able to obtain a driver license, open a bank account and purchase mobile SIM cards was an important next step to be considered by the government.
“It is in the best interests of Pakistan that refugees have legal access to essential services in order to sustain themselves through legal means while staying temporarily on Pakistani soil.” Mr Wright added.
During a three-day official visit of the UN Refugee High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr António Guterres, last week, the Federal Minister of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), Lt. Gen. (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch assured UNHCR that he would look into the possibility of granting rights associated with holding a PoR card.
Mr Wright also expressed concerns over reported arrests of Afghan PoR cardholders under Pakistan’s Foreigners Act, and noted his hope that the renewed PoR cards will reduce incidents of arbitrary arrests and detention.
UNHCR also wishes to inform Afghan refugees that from 1 September 2014, UNHCR will only consider Afghans holding the new PoR cards with the validity date of 31 December 2015 for any services provided by the agency and its partners, including assistance for voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan. Afghans still carrying the old PoR cards with the validity date of December 2012 will no longer be entitled to any assistance provided by UNHCR and its partners.