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Pressure mounts on Afghan refugees

Afghan refugees head home from Pakistan, which has appeared less willing to host them in recent years Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN
Pakistan is putting pressure on the estimated 2.8 million Afghan registered and unregistered refugees to return to their homeland by the end of 2012.

The government has said it will not renew the ID cards of the 1.8 million registered Afghan refugees.

Last week, Habibullah Khan, secretary in the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, was quoted by the media as saying: "The international community desires us to review this policy but we are clear on this point. The refugees have become a threat to law and order, security, demography, economy and local culture. Enough is enough.

"After 31 December 2012, there is no plan to extend the validity of the POR [proof of registration] cards of Afghan refugees. Those currently registered will lose the status of refugees. They will be treated under the law of the land. The provincial governments have already been asked to treat the existing unregistered refugees as illegal immigrants.”

“Asylum space is narrowing given that the government of Pakistan is pretty serious about returning most of them to Afghanistan,” said Aamir Fawad, protection officer with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “We are talking to the government to extend, but it is unclear what will happen.”

In June, Pakistan agreed to delay the forced repatriation of 400,000 Afghans who were rounded up in Peshawar for being in the country illegally.

“There is increased pressure on them to either move to camps or repatriate,” one aid worker who preferred anonymity told IRIN. “Every day, I see people being harassed by the security officials. Those living in refugee villages are facing pressure from landlords as well. Yet at the same time, the situation in Afghanistan is not attractive for return.”


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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