Registration of Afghans in Pakistan tops 1 million mark
By the end of today in Pakistan, we expect to have registered 1 million Afghans in an ongoing government registration exercise to find durable solutions for one of the largest groups of concern to UNHCR today.
The registration of Afghans in Pakistan started in October and is expected to end on December 31. So far, over 63 percent of those registered are in North West Frontier Province, over 17 percent in Balochistan, 12 percent in Punjab, 7 percent in Sindh and less than 1 percent in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Forty-eight percent are female while 51 percent are children aged 14 and below.
This exercise is a follow-up to the Pakistan government's census of March 2005, which tried to "fix" the Afghan population in Pakistan for the first time since they fled the Soviet invasion in late 1979. Only Afghans who were enumerated in the census can be registered. They receive 'proof of registration' cards valid for three years that recognise them as Afghan citizens temporarily living in Pakistan. The card provides them with official documentation for the first time in exile, and will also be linked to new return arrangements starting in March next year.
More than 2.8 million Afghans have repatriated from Pakistan with UNHCR assistance since 2002, but an estimated 2.4 million remain in the country today. While conflict and persecution first drove them into exile, these are no longer the main reasons for their continued stay in Pakistan. According to the 2005 census, 57 percent of Afghans said they could not go home because they lacked land and shelter in Afghanistan. The shortage of jobs ranked second as an obstacle to repatriation, followed by the lack of security.
The information collected through registration will be analysed to get a clearer profile of the remaining group - who they are, where they're from, what their skills and education levels are, and if they intend to repatriate in the near future. These insights will help UNHCR and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to create suitable policies to manage the future of Afghans in Pakistan.
The US$6-million registration exercise has received funds from the European Commission, the United States and the United Kingdom.