Dead­line looms for Afghan refugees in Pak­istan

The Miracle - - Local / Afghan News - By:by Asad Hashim Source: al­jazeera.com/news

Is­lam­abad, Pak­istan – A dead­line on the va­lid­ity of le­gal refugee sta­tus for many Afghan res­i­dents in Pak­istan is due to ex­pire, throw­ing into doubt the fu­tures of more than a mil­lion refugees, many of whom have lived in the coun­try for decades. The dead­line is due to ex­pire on Wed­nes­day, with Pak­istan’s fed­eral cabi­net ex­pected to dis­cuss the mat­ter dur­ing a weekly meet­ing. Sep­a­rately, Afghan In­te­rior Min­is­ter Wais Ah­mad Bar­mak and in­tel­li­gence chief Mo­hamed Ma­soom Stanekzai also ar­rived in the Pak­istani cap­i­tal Is­lam­abad for talks on Wed­nes­day. Pak­istan has ex­tended the va­lid­ity of Afghan refugees’ Proof of Reg­is­tra­tion’ (PoR) cards at least six times in the past, but the last ex­ten­sion - granted on Jan­uary 3, days after the refugees’ sta­tus ex­pired - was for only a month, the short­est ever awarded. “Pak­istan’s econ­omy has car­ried the burden of host­ing Afghan refugees since long and in the present cir­cum­stances can­not sus­tain it fur­ther,” read a govern­ment state­ment re­leased after that ex­ten­sion. The refugees have be­come a bone of con­tention in the in­creas­ing sour­ing diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and the United States, with the South Asian coun­try ac­cus­ing them of be­ing a “se­cu­rity risk”. On Thurs­day, fol­low­ing a US drone strike in the north­west­ern Pak­istani district of Kur­ram, Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary said that the tar­get had been hid­ing in an Afghan refugee camp. ”This val­i­dates Pak­istan’s stance that left over ter­ror­ists eas­ily morph into Afghan refugees’ camps/com­plexes,” the mil­i­tary said in a state­ment. “Thus their early and dig­ni­fied re­turn to Afghanistan is es­sen­tial.” Refugee push fac­tors Pak­istan is home to at least 1.38 mil­lion reg­is­tered Afghan refugees, ac­cord­ing to the UNHCR. There are at least an­other mil­lion refugees es­ti­mated to be out­side the for­mal refugee reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem. “The 2.3 mil­lion refugees in Pak­istan, it is im­pos­si­ble for all of them to go back im­me­di­ately,” says Baryali Miankhel, the pres­i­dent of an Afghan refugee wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tion in the north­west­ern prov­ince of Khy­berPakhtunkhwa, where most re­side. “We have told the Pak­istani govern­ment this.” Last year, more than 150,000 refugees left Pak­istan to re­turn to their na­tive Afghanistan. Of those, more than 59,000 were reg­is­tered refugees as­sisted by the UNHCR, while the rest ei­ther spon­ta­neously re­turned or were de­ported by Pak­istan. UNHCR says it is con­cerned at the in­creas­ingly shorter du­ra­tions of ex­ten­sions be­ing of­fered to Afghan refugees re­gard­ing their le­gal sta­tus in the coun­try.

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