Pakistan: Afghans registering on the increase
Afghans have been coming forward in increasing numbers to register at two screening centres jointly established by UNHCR and the Government of Pakistan in Jalozai and Nasir Bagh in north west Pakistan last week.
During the week, thousands have taken part in the first phase of the screening programme, which is expected to determine the refugee status of Afghans who have fled to Pakistan to escape the twin scourges of drought and conflict in their homeland.
More than 5,000 families from two Afghan settlements near Peshawar have been registered in the first week of the exercise, 3,247 in Jalozai and 1,829 in Nasir Bagh.
At the same time, 531 families from the two camps have opted to return home, 374 from Nasir Bagh and 157 from Jalozai.
Thirty joint UNHCR/government of Pakistan teams assisted by Pashto and Dari-speaking interpreters deployed in Jalozai and Nasir Bagh have been collecting information from heads of families who present themselves according to their respective residential blocks. The number of Afghans participating in the exercise is expected to increase significantly this week when more pre-screeners join the operation. The Afghans provide general information on their families and areas of origin in Afghanistan.
Those who express the wish to return to Afghanistan will be given an assistance package consisting of 6,000 rupees and 150 kgs of wheat.
Afghans who opt for the screening process, which is slated to begin in the next few weeks once all the initial family data has been collected, will be interviewed and those found to be in need of protection will be granted a temporary stay in Pakistan. All those accepted will be shifted from Jalozai and Nasir Bagh to a new camp, where they will be provided assistance by UNHCR and its partners.
Afghans whose case is rejected will have the right to appeal, but once a final decision is made, they would have to return home.