Pakistan extends stay of Afghan refugees

Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday decided to extend the stay of the registered Afghan refugees until March 2017, the authorities said.

The legal stay of the registered refugees in Pakistan was scheduled to end on December 31, 2016. However, the registered refugees are now allowed to stay until the end of March next year.

Islamabad has issued Proof Registration (PoR) cards to refugees that legally allow their stay in Pakistan.

The cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided a three-month extension in the period of PoR cards, an official statement said.

Pakistan currently hosts around three million Afghan refugees, including 1.6 million registered while a similar number undocumented, according to UN refugee agency.

The Prime Minister directed the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, which deals with the Afghan refugees, to hold broad-based consultations with the national leaderships of main stream political parties and Afghan representatives for addressing the concerns of Afghan Refugees.

“We would not allow that Afghan refugees living in Pakistan to be terrified in any way. They are our guests and their return plans would be decided in a way that does not create any negative impression in the minds of people living on both sides of the border,” further said the Prime Minister.

Officials of the UNHCR in Islamabad also confirmed and hailed the decision.

“The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) welcomes the Cabinet’s decision to extend the validity of the Proof of Registration cards for registered Afghan refugees until 31 March 2017. This extension will bring much needed relief to anxious Afghan refugees,” UNHCR spokesperson Dunya Khan said in a statement.