“On Wednesday, the government extended registered Afghan refugees” Proof of Residency (PoR) cards for six months,until the end of 2016.
“But an extension to the end of 2017 would allow more time for the situation in Afghanistan to stabilize so that it would be more feasible for them to return in safety and dignity.
The Pakistani government’s move to extend Afghan refugees’ residency until the end of 2016 sends an important signal to police and local officials not to harass or coerce Afghan refugees to leave,” Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director, said in a statement on Thursday.”
The temporary extension of the PoR cards, which officially recognize their holders’ status as “Afghan citizen[s] temporarily residing in Pakistan,” provides relief to the country’s 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees whose cards were to expire on June 30. However, the six-month extension falls far short of the December 31, 2017 date recommended by the federalMinistry for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON).
Police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province announced on June 28 the arrests of more than 2,000 Afghan “illegal settlers,” HRW noted, and Afghan refugees in that province, which shares a long border with Afghanistan and hosts the majority of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, also face major restrictions on their right to freedom of movement.
Pakistan is host to 1.5 million PoR card holders, the world’s second-largest protracted refugee population in a single country under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mandate. In addition, according to Pakistani government estimates, one million undocumented Afghans are living in Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s government should protect Afghan refugees from vindictive reprisals linked to cross-border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Kine said.
“The government can take a concrete step toward ensuring their protection by extending residency cards until the end of 2017 and developing a long-term, rights-respecting solution for the Afghan residents.”