News / Asia

    UN: Afghan Refugees Harassed in Pakistan

    Returning Afghan refugees, who have recently arrived from Pakistan, wait during the registration process at a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 20, 2013.
    Returning Afghan refugees, who have recently arrived from Pakistan, wait during the registration process at a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 20, 2013.
    The U.N. refugee agency is warning that Afghan refugees in Pakistan are increasingly becoming victims of extortion, illegal detention and harassment. Pakistan has taken in millions of Afghans since the Soviet invasion in 1979 and has some 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees.

    According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, hundreds of registered Afghan refugees have recently been illegally swept up and briefly held by Pakistani authorities during security operations.
     
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    U.N. representative Neill Wright said most of the arrests came during operations in Pakistan's restive southwestern province of Baluchistan and the southern city of Karachi, mainly because of institutional delays in updating refugee status cards.
     
    "Normally every month there would be just a small number of arrests and releases," Wright explained. "However in the last two or three months, particularly in the two operations that I mentioned, these numbers have gone up into the hundreds every week or every month, so the number has significantly increased."
     
    Wright added that the refugees were quickly released, but he called on law enforcement agencies to respect the rights of refugees and work on reducing the number of arrests.
     
    Islamabad, in its second extension since December 2012, recently said that registered Afghan refugees can legally remain in Pakistan until December 2015. However, many refugees are holding expired identity cards  - leading to mistaken detention and abuse.
     
    Wright's counterpart in the Pakistan Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, Imran Zeb, acknowledged that in some cases local security forces were taking advantage of the situation.

    "For example, if there is a man traveling on a bus, and if any security person or any police constable comes and asks for his identification, and he does not have one, or has, as I said an invalid card, so he is taken down from the bus and taken aside, so at the very lower level," noted Wright, "this is not something that regards to the government or to any institution or to any people, these are individual to individuals -- so that particular constable would try to try whatever means he can to benefit himself also and release the guy also. So that is the extortion."
     
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    Millions of refugee Afghans poured over the border into Pakistan when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and more joined them when the Taliban took over in the late 1990s. In the last 10 years, some 3.8 million have been repatriated, but Pakistan still hosts more than one and a half million authorized Afghan refugees.
     
    "There are 1.61 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan today, and some of them were issued their PoR [Proof of Registration] cards in 2010 in different locations from where they are living today," said Wright, noting that issuing renewed cards is not a simple process. "So you can imagine the logistics and the cost of replacing all of those cards."
     
    The UNHCR and the government of Pakistan have set up complaint cells and a hotline for those authorized refugees who need help.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: sultan from: England uk
    November 02, 2013 8:24 PM
    @shaji. What a shame! Its funny how you don't mention that pakistanis do the same thing all over the world. If you want the Afghans to leave Pakistan then all the pakistanis all over the world should return back to Pakistan too since they aren't in danger in their homeland.Besides we are all muslims and we should welcome our brothers and sisters open armed and treat them fairly, no matter how long they are there for. In Islam there's NO NATIONALISM. Anyway when Pakistan has a war with someone who is it that always is on the front line winning the war? The pashtuns
    In Response

    by: khan
    November 09, 2013 12:28 AM
    Pakistanis residing across world are not bcoz they went there bcoz of war.they r immigrants. While afghans residing in pakistan r refugees .and came to pakistan bcoz of security concerns

    by: Abdulwahid from: Pakistan
    October 25, 2013 4:49 PM
    Thanks VOA. 65% of that 1.6 million are born in pakistan & they are just pakistani not afghani, pakistan should give them full nationality. I strongly disagree with above comment,in every forest there are different kinds of animals,five fingers of hand are not equal,Therefore in every country/nation/tribe/ any kind of people exist.
    In Response

    by: khan
    November 09, 2013 12:29 AM
    They dont have pakistani nationality.and should be sent back .thry r just refugee

    by: shaji from: Pak
    October 24, 2013 11:44 PM
    Good, they have a choice....GO HOME. We dont want Afghans in our country, they are rude, criminals, uneducated, murderers, thieves, kindppers, drug dealers, all the crime you can imagine, these people commit freely, they are filthy, and any neighbourhood they settle in becomes an instant ghetto, we were not supposed to host them for over 30 years, now they refuse to go back, sorry enough is enough, if anyone feels pity, please send visas for all 3 million overstaying illegally or else shut up.

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