An operation will be launched against all Afghan refugees staying illegally in Hazara division from Monday, it has been learnt.
Police officials told The Express Tribune that under the operation being launched in six districts unregistered Afghan refugees will be arrested and sent back to their home country after legal proceedings.
The officials said the drive is part of the plan to speed up the process of repatriation of the refugees, whether registered or unregistered, from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, by the end of this year.
The officials said that the provincial government had recently directed the police and the intelligence agencies to identify all Afghan refugees in their territorial jurisdiction and arrest those who are unregistered.
The government directed them to compile records of the business activities of the refugees and also stressed on confining them to camps and other designated areas so that their involvement in trade and other activities could be curtailed.
According to officials of the Afghan refugee camps department in Haripur, over 200 families (around 1,000 people) repatriated to Afghanistan from two camps in Panian and Badhana areas by June this year.
From Ichrian, Khaki and Brairi refugee camps in Mansehra district, 109 Afghan families (around 700 people) left for their home country during the same period, said Afghan Camps Deputy District Officer Syed Tanvir Hussain Shah.
Shah said the camp administration demolished houses of all those leaving the camp to avoid resettlement. He dispelled the impression that those repatriating voluntarily could return.
He said that the process of repatriation slowed down with the advent of Ramazan as refugees deferred their plans to leave for Afghanistan till after Eidul Azha. He was hopeful that several other Afghan families settled in the area will repatriate by the end of September.
Officials said that 1.7 million Afghan refugees have been registered in Pakistan since Russia invaded Afghanistan in the late seventies. In Hazara Division, a total of 123,359 and 22,261 Afghan families have been registered so far in six refugee camps in Haripur and Mansehra districts respectively.
Meanwhile, 20,327 and 18,000 Afghan families in Haripur and Mansehra districts are reported to be living in rented accommodations. Several other families in the division remain unregistered, according to officials.
Under a tripartite agreement last year, the UN refugee agency and the Pakistan and Afghanistan governments agreed to assist repatriation of all refugees by December 31.
In March this year, each refugee was offered $150 by the UN organisation to repatriate voluntarily and over 36,000 refugees left for Afghanistan via the Torkham border. Since 2002, over 3.6 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2012.
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