UN urges Pakistan to resolve Afghan refugees’ status

The UN has urged Pakistan to resolve the status of more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan whose registration cards have expired or who remain unregistered. While Europe has grappled with the exodus of people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan hosts the world’s largest long-term refugee population. In December, registration cards providing temporary legal stay to more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees expired, and were granted a six-month extension by the government.

But Afghans say they are hassled by police for carrying the expired cards, and members of the estimated one million Afghans who are still unregistered also face difficulties with the authorities. UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner George Okoth-Obbo said his agency was engaged in “continuing discussions” with the Pakistani government to resolve the population’s uncertain situation.

Many Afghans living in Pakistan have been living in the country for decades and contribute significantly to the country’s labour force. Since 2009, international donors have poured more than $30 million into improving basic services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa communities that have hosted the their neighbours for decades.

With security in Afghanistan deteriorating over the past year, many of the Afghans living in the Kalabat area have no interest in going home anytime soon.