Afghan refugees: Majority don't get registered out of fear of forceful repatriation

Published: April 4, 2012
According to UNHCR, around 3.5 million Afghan refugees are registered while many are not. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

According to UNHCR, around 3.5 million Afghan refugees are registered while many are not. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

QUETTA: Living in Balochistan for the last three decades, a majority of the Afghan refugees have not registered themselves out of fear of forceful repatriation, said Major Farzand Ali, Director Operation Afghan Refugees Organisation Balochistan.

Addressing participants of a workshop in Quetta on Friday, Ali said there is no legislation to deal with the refugees’ issue.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as many as 3.5 million Afghan refugees have registered, while many others have not.

The workshop titled ‘Sensitisation and Capacity Building media’ was held at the Quetta Club, where participants discussed the agreement inked between the Government of Pakistan and UNHCR allowing some 1.7 million Afghan refugees to continue living in the country until the end of 2012.

Pakistan allowed 150,000 unskilled Afghan refugees to prolong their stay in the country through an agreement with Afghanistan and UNHCR.

“A population verification survey under Management and Repatriation Strategy for Afghan Refugees (MRSAR) was recently conducted in the districts of Quetta, Pishin and Qila Abdullah but we are yet to receive any feedback about the basic requirements of Afghan refugees living here,” he said, referring to MRSAR under which the refugees who have invested over Rs5 million in productive businesses would be allowed to continue with their work and may be given work permits for a specific period of time.

“The well-off refugees have already obtained National Identity Cards and have settled in urban slums,” he pointed out.

He also said there are 150 unfrequented routes along the Pakistan-Afghan borders, where keeping a strict check on cross border movements is impossible.  “Many new people enter Pakistan while some go back to Afghanistan,” he added.

“For instance, over one million refugees were repatriated in 2004 out of which 80 percent came back due to the law and order situation in their country,” Ali stated.

“I have been dealing the Afghan refugees for the past three years and have observed that no one knows the exact figure of unregistered refugees. There is a need of serious legislation to deal with the refugees because despite the lapse of three decades nothing has been done,” he said.

Calling for Pakistan to adopt realistic approach towards the issue, Ali said that early repatriation would be difficult as the situation in Afghanistan is not stable.

Associate Protection Officer UNHCR, Arbab Mohammad Zahir said the MRSAR is striving to legalise the stay of Afghan refugees so that they can easily earn their livelihood.

He agreed that most of the repatriated refugees had returned to Pakistan and said Afghanistan is also working to improve the law and order situation.

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