ISLAMABAD: The Governmehttps://webmail.unhcr.org/gw/webacc#nt of Pakistan in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency has commenced with the issuance of renewed Proof of Registration (PoR) cards to more than 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) launched a countywide project at the inaugural ceremony in Haripur on Tuesday. The renewed PoR cards will be issued through 34 PoR card renewal centres across the country, starting with six centres in Haripur, Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Quetta, followed by more centres to open in March, April and May.
The existing PoR cards held by Afghan refugees expired in December 2012. In July 2013, the Government of Pakistan, through its Federal Cabinet decision, announced the extension of the Tripartite Commission Agreement governing the voluntary return of Afghans and the validity of the PoR cards until the end of 2015.
The PoR card renewal exercise is a result of continuous consultation between the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and UNHCR aimed at finding durable solutions for Afghan refugees, which constitute the world’s largest protracted refugee population in a single country.
The renewal process will be carried out in two phases; during the first phase from February until the end of June 2014, all PoR cards that expired in December 2012 will be replaced by new PoR cards.
In the second phase from July until the end of 2014, NADRA will register and issue individual PoR cards to some 150,000 children born to registered parents in the past five years, and more than 330,000 Afghan children below the age of eighteen will receive birth certificates.
Dr. Imran Zeb, Chief Commissioner Afghan Refugees, speaking at the inaugural ceremony, reiterated Pakistan’s firm commitment to continue extending hospitality to Afghan refugees until the end of December 2015.
“The Government is keen to provide support to UNHCR and the Government of Afghanistan in facilitating the voluntary return of refugees back to their country with respect and dignity,” he said. Dr. Zeb added that, “We believe the only solution for Afghan refugees lies within Afghanistan, for which we need more support from the international community for Afghanistan.”
Mr. Neill Wright, Representative of UNHCR in Pakistan, expressed the hope that the renewal of the existing PoR cards will improve the protection situation of Afghan refugees and put a halt to reported instances of harassment faced by refugees while performing their daily tasks, including feeding their families, working and being able to travel freely in Pakistan.
Mr. Wright extolled the good cooperation with the Government of Pakistan in renewing the PoR cards to Afghan refugees. “The PoR card extension decision came at a very crucial time.
Given the upcoming Presidential election in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of foreign troops this year, many refugees in Pakistan have been waiting to see what happens, so that they can take a decision about their return” he noted.
Mr. Wright added that the PoR card is an important identity document for Afghans, providing them with a legal right of stay in Pakistan and protection against detention and deportation.
Since 2002, more than 3.8 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan under the biggest facilitated voluntary return programme. Returnees form a quarter of the current total population of Afghanistan, while as many as 1.6 million registered Afghans remain in exile in Pakistan.