Pakistan: Afghan registration starts
This weekend, the government of Pakistan will start the first-ever registration of Afghan citizens in Pakistan. The exercise runs from October 15 to December 31, and aims to provide Afghans in Pakistan with official identification that is valid for three years.
Pakistan hosts one of the largest groups of refugees in the world, with 1 million Afghans living in camps and over 1.4 million in urban areas. This registration will be the biggest ever of its kind involving UNHCR.
The registration exercise is a follow-up to the 2005 census of Afghans who had arrived in Pakistan after 1 December 1979 to escape the Soviet invasion of their homeland. The government has stated that only Afghans included in the census can take part in the registration.
The 10-week exercise is conducted by Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority, NADRA. UNHCR and government officials are supporting and monitoring the process, which involves taking the Afghans' biodata, digital photographs and fingerprints.
Registered Afghans will receive a 'proof of registration' card that is valid for three years and recognises the bearer as an Afghan citizen temporarily living in Pakistan. It does not confer any additional rights or status.
The registration will give us a clear profile of the Afghans who remain in Pakistan - not all of them refugees - after more than 2.8 million Afghans repatriated in the last five years. The information collected (areas of origin, education and skill levels, special needs and intention to return) will help UNHCR and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to find durable solutions to this protracted situation. It reflects UNHCR's efforts to develop proactive strategies to address issues linked to long-term situations of asylum, migration and mixed population flows.
Meanwhile, yesterday (Thursday), UNHCR sent off the year's last return convoys from Pakistan to Afghanistan, ending a repatriation season that has seen more than 132,000 Afghans return from Pakistan with UNHCR assistance. Repatriation from Pakistan will resume next March with new arrangements tied to the 'proof of registration' card.