PESHAWAR: Afghan refugees residing in various parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have heaved a sigh of relief as the federal government has announced the extension in their stay.
Shaukat Khan, an Afghan refugee, who runs a mobile shop in Board Bazaar in the city, told The Express Tribune now that they have time in 2017, they can manage their properties and then leave the country.
He added the Afghan refugees had sold their properties worth millions at throwaway prices due to harassment on part of the police before the extension was announced.
The eight months of 2016 were particularly hard for both legal and illegal Afghan refugees as police harassment resulted in their mass repatriation.
While talking to The Express Tribune, SSP Operations Abbas Majeed Marwat said the situation has been relaxed for Afghan refugees and those who have Proof of Registration cards and passports can freely live till the set time.
He added crackdowns against refugees have also minimised and now they can run their businesses.
However, he maintained, the police will arrest those refugees who do not possess legal documents or are found involved in criminal acts.
Nevertheless, Afghan refugees residing in Peshawar were still worried, saying they cannot go outside their houses freely as the police were still harassing them and demanding bribes.
Another Afghan refugee, Zubair Jan, told The Express Tribune the police have still not stopped arresting their people.
He added they cannot even visit their relatives living in other parts of the city. Jan maintained the police ask them to show their cards at every point in the city and if someone is not carrying them, they are put behind bars. Although he appreciated the government’s decision to extend their stay, he said the police should be directed to not harass them.
In Peshawar, the police had started a crackdown against Afghan refugees. According to the capital city police, at least 9,000 have been arrested and deported to Afghanistan.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees Spokesperson Dunya Aslam Khan told The Express Tribune voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees took momentum this year, especially in August.
She said since January around 110,000 refugees voluntarily repatriated, out of which 60,000 returned in August alone. The voluntary repatriation centre will reopen after Eidul Azha, she said, and the process would resume.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2016.
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