KARACHI: More than 68,000 Afghan refugees in Sindh have started receiving the renewed Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, valid until 31 December 2015. Around 95 per cent of the total registered refugees in Sindh, reside in Karachi.
According to a press release issued from Islamabad, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency launched a countywide project under which 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees will get their PoR cards. The renewed PoR cards will be issued through 34 PoR card renewal centres across Pakistan.
The project was lunched at an inauguration ceremony held at the PoR Cards Renewal Centre at Afghan Refugee Repatriation Cell (ARRC) on Wednesday. Additional Chief Secretary Home Sindh Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah; Commissioner Karachi, Shoaib Ahmad Siddique; Ghazanfar Ali Agha, Commissioner and Project Direct Afghan Refugees Repatriation Cell Sindh and Younas Sahibzada, Head of UNHCR Field Office in Karachi attended the ceremony.
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.
Speaking at the occasion, Ghazanfar Ali Agha, Commissioner and Project Direct Afghan Refugees Repatriation Cell in Sindh said with the issuance of these renewed cards the already registered Afghan Refugees could keep on staying in Pakistan. The ministry of SAFRON along with UNHCR is taking all the measures and steps to uplift the livelihood of the Afghan refugees and IDPs in Pakistan. A number of Welfare Projects including health, education and water and sanitation funded by UNHCR are in hand for the Afghan Refugees.
He reiterated Pakistan’s firm commitment to continue extending hospitality to Afghan refugees until the end of December 2015.
“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.
Younas Sahibzada, Head of UNHCR Field Office in Karachi appreciated the government’s efforts and cooperation in renewing the PoR cards to Afghan refugees.
He expressed the hope that the renewal of the existing PoR cards will improve the protection situation of registered Afghans in Pakistan. With the issuance of renewed PoR cards, he added cases of reported extortion and harassment of registered Afghans will decrease and they will also be able to earn livelihood for their families in a more respectable manner. The renewed PoR cards will help its holders to move freely inside Pakistan.
He said 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 faca quarter of the current total population of Afghanistan, while as many as 1.6 million registered Afghans remain in exile in Pakistan.