Afghan Migrants with Valid Registration Can Temporarily Stay in Pakistan

Pakistan has extended the protection for registered Afghan refugees holding proof of registration (PoR) cards until 31 December 2023, according to a notification issued by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON).

The notification said that the relevant departments and agencies have been directed to refrain from taking any action against registered Afghan refugees holding valid PoR cards, which allow them to reside temporarily in Pakistan and can only be repatriated voluntarily.

The notification also said that instructions had already been conveyed to all stakeholders and provincial governments that Afghan refugees with valid PoR cards and Afghan Citizen Cards (ACC) were allowed to stay in Pakistan until the end of the year.

However, the notification did not mention the status of illegal Afghan migrants, who have been ordered to leave the country by 1 November or face deportation.

The caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti formed a task force that will take action against illegal immigrants, especially those from Afghanistan, who are blamed for security problems in Pakistan.

The interior minister also announced that a web portal is being established to report any illegal activity related to smuggling or terrorism.

He said that the assets owned by illegal immigrants would be confiscated and their businesses would be sealed.

According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), there are about 1.7 million illegal Afghan migrants in Pakistan, who have not yet gained refugee status or legal documentation.

Pakistan has seen an influx of refugees from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained power in 2021, adding to the pressure on its already strained resources and security situation.

Pakistan has also faced criticism from human rights groups and the Taliban government in Kabul for its harsh treatment of Afghan refugees and migrants.

The UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have called on Pakistan to suspend forcible returns of Afghan nationals and ensure any possible returns take place in a safe, dignified, and voluntary manner.

They have also offered to provide support in developing a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism to register and manage Afghan nationals, including those who may be in need of international protection.

Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for over four decades, despite challenges and limited international support.

According to UNHCR, there are currently about 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, 99 per cent of whom are Pashtuns, followed by Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Baloch, Turkmen, and others.

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