Pakistan

Afghanistan seeks extension of refugees’ stay in Pakistan

Afghanistan seeks extension of refugees’ stay in Pakistan

Islamabad: Afghanistan has pressed Pakistan to grant up to one year extension of the stay of over 1 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Afghan diplomats said on Monday.

The demand came days after Pakistani Cabinet decided to grant only one month extension to the stay of nearly 1.4 million registered refugees in Pakistan, Xinhua reported.

The Pakistani cabinet in its January 3 meeting granted the extension in the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards that allow registered refugees to stay legally in the country.

The PoR cards expired on December 31, 2017 and under the Cabinet’s new decision, registered Afghan refugees can legally stay in Pakistan until January 31.

The Cabinet had also decided that the issue of early repatriation of Afghan refugees should be raised with the UN refugee agency and with the international community.

Afghanistan Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan Zardasht Shams said over a million refugees cannot be sent back home in one month time.

Shams told Xinhua late on Monday that the Afghan government is in contact with the Pakistani officials to extend the stay of the registered refugees by one year or at least six months.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has already suspended voluntary repatriation of the refugees from Pakistan for winter break until March, he said.

The Cabinet has taken the decision at a time when the documentation of the hundreds of thousands of unregistered refugees is underway in Pakistan.

The Afghan Deputy Ambassador said about 700,000 unregistered refugees had been documented until January 5. The documentation process, which is going on in 21 centres across Pakistan, is scheduled to conclude on January 31.

—IANS