Reaching out to refugee communities to register new-borns
KOT CHANDNA, MIANWALI (01 December, 2016): Wearing traditional Balochi cap and dressed in a Pashtoon shalwar kameez, Alam Khan, waits to get his children registered with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) at Kot Chandna refugee village.
“Travelling for seven hours to Lahore by public transport with children was an uphill task. I couldn’t afford to stay overnight there and leave my work back in town,” said the 35-year-old Alam Khan who is a daily wage labourer at Kot Chandna refugee village.
An estimated 6,000 children in Punjab province are invisible to the world as their parents could not afford to travel long distance by public transport to Lahore where the NADRA-run centre offers documentation services to Afghan refugees. Refugee elders estimate that 3,000 births remain unregistered in Mianwali.
Now they feel relief as NADRA with the support of UNHCR deployed a Mobile registration van to Kot Chandna refugee village in Mianwali district, which is issuing identity documents to the refugees including birth registration certificates to newborn, Proof of Registration (PoR) cards to children above the age of five and record marriages at their doorstep.
PoR cards are an important identity document given by the government of Pakistan to registered Afghan refugees which enables them to legally reside in Pakistan. Pakistan hosts around 1.35 million registered Afghan refugees. Approximately 50 percent are under the age of 15.
“So far NADRA has registered around 3,000 children in different districts. Mobile registration van will also cover more refugee communities in other districts of Punjab which are at a distance from other registration centre in Lahore,” said Yasir Ayaz Khan, UNHCR Assistant Field Officer surrounded by refugees at the venue.
The UN refugee agency took this initiative keeping in view the hardships, Afghan refugees face while registering their children and to ensure their future are not at risk of being denied access to basic rights.
“Birth registration is the right of every child and this is an important document to allow them to get basic rights like education and healthcare,” said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan.
He said the mobile registration van is a good initiative for ensuring registration of every child that will help UNHCR to conduct comprehensive and accurate needs assessment of Afghan refugees. Based on the needs assessment, he added UNHCR will be in a position to devise pragmatic and long-term strategies to address their basic needs.
Alam Khan feels elated by the registration of his two sons and two daughters. He is grateful to UNHCR and NADRA for this mobile service at his doorstep. “It means a lot to us as my children will get basic identity which is important for their education and bright future.”
Qaiser Khan Afridi in Mianwali