Life in exile: Afghans to receive renewed registration cards

Centres for the purpose established in Haripur, Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Quetta.


Our Correspondent February 26, 2014
Over 1.6 million registered Afghans still remain in Pakistan. PHOTO: ONLINE/NNI

HARIPUR:


The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on Tuesday launched a countrywide initiative of issuing renewed Proof of Registration (PoR) cards to registered Afghan refugees in the country.


The inaugural ceremony of the project, which is being carried out in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), was held in Haripur. The renewed PoR cards will be issued through 34 renewal centres across the country, with six centres established in Haripur, Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Quetta. This will be followed by more centres which will be opened in March, April and May, according to an official handout.

In July last year, the federal government, through an extension of the Tripartite Commission Agreement that controls the voluntary return of Afghans, announced that the validity of registration cards for the 1.6 million plus refugees currently residing in Pakistan will be extended until the end of 2015.

A two-phase process has been chalked out for the renewal exercise. During the first phase, which kicked off on Tuesday and will last until June 2014, all PoR cards that expired by December 2012 will be replaced by new ones. The second phase which will run from July until the end of 2014, will involve issuing individual PoR cards to some 150,000 children born to registered refugee parents in the last five years, while more than 330,000 Afghan children below the age of 18 will receive birth certificates.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Afghan Refugees Chief Commissioner Dr Imran Zeb reiterated the country’s commitment to extend hospitality to Afghan refugees until the end of 2015. “The government is keen to provide support to UNHCR and the government of Afghanistan in facilitating the voluntary return of refugees back to their country,” he said, according to the press release.

“We believe the only solution for Afghan refugees lies within Afghanistan, for which we need more support from the international community,” he added.

Since 2002, more than 3.8 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan under the facilitated voluntary return programme. Returnees form a quarter of the current total population of Afghanistan, while as many as 1.6 million registered Afghans remain in exile in Pakistan.

The Afghan refugee population constitutes the world’s largest protracted refugee population in a single country. The card renewal initiative comes as a result of consultations between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the UNHCR.

Speaking to participants of the inaugural ceremony, representative of UNHCR in Pakistan, Neill Wright, expressed hope that renewal of existing PoR cards will improve the situation of Afghan refugees and put a halt to reported instances of harassment faced by refugees while performing their daily tasks, including feeding their families, working and being able to travel freely in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2014.

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