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‘Big Relief For Refugees’: Pakistan Says Registered Afghans Can Stay For One More Year

Millions of Afghans have poured into Pakistan over the years, fleeing decades of cascading conflict. An estimated 600,000 arrived since the Taliban government seized power in August 2021.

AP
Pakistan Says Registered Afghans Can Stay For One More Year | Photo: AP
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Pakistan's government has extended the stay of registered Afghan refugees for a further year, until June 30, 2025. The move provides a temporary reprieve for thousands of Afghan nationals living legally in Pakistan. Last year in October, the caretaker government announced the decision to expel all illegal foreigners, which hit the Afghans living in Pakistan, especially hard.

The decision comes a day after the visiting United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“The federal cabinet approved a one-year extension of the validity of PoR (Proof of Registration) cards of 1.45 million Afghan refugees. Their PoR cards have been expired on June 30, 2024. The extension has been granted until June 30, 2025," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

The decision, which was taken in a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sharif, came amid reports that Pakistan had suspended the repatriation of Afghans without legal documents.

Afghan Refugees In Pakistan

The deportation of illegal Afghan refugees has been going on since the government's ultimatum for them to leave Pakistan by November 1 last year. 

Millions of Afghans have poured into Pakistan over the years, fleeing decades of cascading conflict. An estimated 600,000 arrived since the Taliban government seized power in August 2021, news agency AFP reports.

Islamabad has previously said its massive eviction scheme is justified by security concerns and its faltering economy.

Analysts say it is pressuring Kabul over rising attacks in Pakistan's border regions with Afghanistan, where the Taliban government is accused of giving militants safe haven.

‘Big Relief For Refugees’ 

Meanwhile, the UNHCR welcomed the decision to extend the stay of Afghans, the Dawn newspaper reported.

“This is a big relief for refugees who were facing uncertainty and anxiety,” UNHCR spokesman Qaisar Khan Afridi told the newspaper.

He said the “generous gesture” demonstrated Pakistan’s commitment to the global refugee cause and showed “solidarity and compassion towards refugees at a time when displaced people need our support”.

Separately, the Foreign Office rejected the UNHCR chief’s claim that Pakistan suspended the repatriation of illegal aliens.

“This is not true. It may be noted that no such understanding has been given by Pakistan to the UNHCR, including in recent meetings with the High Commissioner for Refugees,” Mumtaz Zehra Baloch told the newspaper.

(With PTI Inputs)

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