Pakistan Extends Stay of Legal Afghan Refugees for One Year

Wed Jul 10 2024
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday extended the stay of 1.45 million Afghan refugees who legally reside in the country, for a period of one year, a day after a visit by the UNHCR chief.

The decision has been taken in the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Afghan refugees with proper documentation- Proof Of Registration (POR) cards- will be able to remain in Pakistan until June 30, 2025, according to a statement issued by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s office. POR cards of over 1.45 million Afghan refugees had expired last month.

On Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Chief Filippo Grandi urged Pakistani authorities to extend the validity of their registration cards — critical identity documents.

The development came a day after United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi met top Pakistani officials including Prime Minister Shehbaz and appreciated the country for suspending the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan,” according to a statement issued by the UNHCR.

During his visit, Filippo Grandi, had also met with Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, and Minister for States, Frontier Regions, Kashmir Affairs, and Gilgit Baltistan, Engineer Amir Muqam, and praised Pakistan and its government for sheltering Afghan refugees for more than four decades.

During his discussions with Pakistani officials, the high commissioner had called for the timely extension of the POR cards, a critical identity document held by over 1.3 million Afghan refugees, a UNHCR statement said.

The statement said Grnadi also sought assurance that the repatriation plan would remain on hold.

In the meeting, PM Shehbaz called on the world to recognise the country’s burden of hosting a large population of Afghan refugees and demonstrate collective responsibility.

Pakistan continues to host some 3 million Afghans, all solutions need to be explored in addition to voluntary repatriation, including third-country resettlement and longer-term solutions within Pakistan, according to the UNHCR statement.

Amid a surge in terror incidents across the country, the then caretaker government in October last year decided to repatriate illegal refugees including undocumented Afghans residing in the country.

According to the latest statistics, over half a million undocumented Afghans have been deported back to their home country.

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