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Afghan Govt. seeks extension for refugees to stay in Pakistan

Afghan refugee children, returning from Pakistan, watch a short video clip about mines at a mines and explosives awareness program at a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registration centre in Kabul, Afghanistan September 2, 2015. A growing number of Afghan refugees are making the journey back from Pakistan with trepidation, as militant violence intensifies, yet feeling shunned by their adopted country as relations between the neighbours sour. The rate of returnees has more than quadrupled this year, with 137,000 refugees going back to Afghanistan since January. The number could spike further if the countries fail to agree by Dec. 31 to extend identity cards for two years and allow some 1.5 million registered refugees to stay in Pakistan. The chill in relations, amid an offensive by Taliban insurgents which Kabul blames partly on Pakistan, has put the extension in doubt, along with the future of another million unregistered Afghans. To match story AFGHANISTAN-REFUGEES/PAKISTAN Picture taken September 2, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Lahore: The Afghanistan government has requested Pakistan to give an extension of four years to the 1.5 million registered refugees, to legalise their stay till 2020.

Quoting sources, the Dawn reports that the legal stay of the registered Afghans will expire by the end of June.

A high level delegation headed by Afghanistan’s Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, had requested to extend the stay of refugees for another four years.

The government had yet to decide whether to accept or reject the Afghan’s government request.

The request for yet another extension from the Afghan government came at a time when relations between the two countries are uneasy because of mutual suspicions, especially border disputes and cross-border activities of the militant groups.

Legal stay of registered refugees had expired in December 2015 and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while using his discretionary powers gave six months temporary extension to refugees in January.

The government had adopted a tough policy regarding Afghan refugees after the terrorists attack on Army Public School and College Peshawar on December 16, 2014. Under the 20-point National Action Plan, the government had decided to formulate a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees. (ANI)