Registered Afghan refugees stay extended for one year – The News International

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Afghan refugees gather in front of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) vans for biometric verification before their departure to Afghanistan, at a holding centre near Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Chaman on November 1, 2023. — AFP
Afghan refugees gather in front of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) vans for biometric verification before their departure to Afghanistan, at a holding centre near Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Chaman on November 1, 2023. — AFP 

Pakistan has granted an extension of another year in the stay of Afghan immigrants legally residing in the country a day after the UN refugee commissioner asked for a pause in the country’s plan to repatriate refugees.

In a meeting on Wednesday, the federal cabinet gave a go-ahead to a one-year extension of Proof Of Registration (POR) cards for 1.45 million Afghan refugees and whose POR cards expired last month.

The extension in the POR cards has been granted till 30th June next year.

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 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.

The statement said Grandi 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.

Islamabad began expelling undocumented foreigners, mostly Afghans, in November last year amid a row over accusations that Afghanistan harbours militants, a charge its ruling Taliban deny.

Pakistan says it is also struggling to host millions of refugees as it grapples with an economic crisis.

Last year, Pakistan announced a huge drive to repatriate foreigners without visas, mostly the roughly 4 million Afghans who crossed the border during 40 years of armed conflict in their home country and after the Taliban seized power in 2021.

More than 500,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since the campaign was announced, according to UN figures.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, earlier this week wrapped up a three-day visit during which he called for the extension of the registration cards and said the international community should find more solutions for refugees and host countries such as Pakistan, the UNHCR statement said.

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