ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 19 May 2015 (UNHCR) — Until last month, Ghulam Mohi Uddin had to travel for two days to register new born children in his family and update the identity cards that allow him and his family to live and move freely in Pakistan. This meant two days away from his family, two days without work, two days less pay, and two days of bus fares and travel costs.
“The nearest card modification centre in Quetta is over 10 hours travel from here,” said Ghulam, an Afghan refugee living in Chagai district in a remote corner of Balochistan in western Pakistan. “It is a very difficult journey, especially with my children.” Like many refugees, he is a manual labourer receiving a daily wage of 400 rupees (US$4). Travelling to Quetta by public transport would cost him at least one week’s wages. But Ghulam no longer faces these problems.
In late April a mobile registration team was deployed to Chagai district by the Government of Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), supported by UNHCR. The team is issuing and updating important identity documents, such as the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards that provide temporary legal stay for 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
Making it easier to register everyone
PoR cards are provided to refugees aged five years or older. Younger children are registered on one of their parents’ cards, but they need birth certificates and so all parents and children have to attend the card modification centres at some stage.
Ghulam has nine children, seven of whom are already registered. During his visit to the mobile registration van with his youngest two daughters Ghulam registered the birth of his baby girl, Zahida. He also applied for Parveena’s first PoR card. “Having the mobile registration van on our doorstep has been so helpful,” he said.
During the next six months, similar teams will visit refugee communities that are substantial distances from any of the six card modification centres in Pakistan.
Jeanette Zuefle, UNHCR Pakistan Assistant Representative (Protection) confirmed: “Our focus is on ensuring that all children of Afghan refugees are registered and issued birth certificates. This is a key document to enrol in school, obtain identity documents and get a job. The mobile registration vans will help us to achieve this in remote and vulnerable refugee communities.”
UNHCR estimates that approximately 180,000 births remain unregistered, and a further 220,000 children aged five years or older have not yet registered for their own PoR cards. To date this year, 34,583 children (19 per cent) have been registered and 26,343 children (12 per cent) have applied for their first PoR cards.
Less travel, less stress for refugees seeking registration
In Rawalpindi in Punjab province, Waqas Munir manages the NADRA PoR card modification centre. He can offer a first-hand view of the benefits of the mobile teams.
“Many refugees travel for half a day or more just to visit our centre,” Waqas said. “The refugees start queuing outside the centre as early as four in the morning to beat the rush. The mobile registration vans will really help the Afghan refugee communities here in Punjab province, too.”
Back in Chagai refugee village the head teacher of school 43, Haider Khan, has also just returned from visiting the mobile registration van. “Our school is so popular, we have to teach the children in two shifts,” he said. As a result he has no time to make the long journey to Quetta.
“My youngest son Matheullah has just turned five, and so today we were able to apply for his first PoR card because of the mobile registration van,” said Haider proudly.
By Edgar Scrase in Islamabad with additional reporting by Abdul Hafeez and Zia Tareen in Quetta, Pakistan