Pakistan to implement 'new procedure' for cross-border movement of Afghans

The purpose of the new method is to make the monitoring of Afghan citizens effective

Afghan people gather to board a bus to return home, after Pakistan gave the last warning to undocumented migrants to leave, at a bus stop in Karachi, Pakistan October 25, 2023. — Reuters
Afghan people gather to board a bus to return home, after Pakistan gave the last warning to undocumented migrants to leave, at a bus stop in Karachi, Pakistan October 25, 2023. — Reuters  
  • FIA will take custody of Afghan refugees' PoR and ACC. 
  • It will keep cards of returning Afghans by punching them.
  • Purpose of this method is to make the monitoring effective.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani authorities have decided to implement a new procedure for the arrival and departure of Afghan citizens in a bid to make their monitoring effective, Geo News reported on Tuesday, citing sources.

According to the sources, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will take custody of Afghan refugees’ Proof of Registration (PoR) card — a critical identity document held by over 1.3 million refugees — and Afghan Citizen Card (ACC) at the Torkham border.

Meanwhile, a voluntary return form will be given to those who return to Afghanistan voluntarily and a grant would be received in Afghanistan on this form, they added.

The sources also said that the FIA will keep the cards of those returning to Afghanistan without the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by punching them and the cards taken into custody will be permanently blocked by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

They also said that once the card has been punched or taken into the custody of the FIA, it will not be returned. The purpose of the new method is to make the monitoring of Afghan citizens effective.

PM seeks UNHCR help to address refugees' issue

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has sought UN High Commissioner for Refugees Fili¬ppo Grandi’s support in mobilising adequate resources to supplement Pakistan’s efforts.

The top UN body official was on a three-day official visit to the country to take stock of the situation. He called on PM Shehbaz on the last leg of his visit.

The premier urged the UN body to play its role in promoting durable solutions to address the situation of Afghan refugees, including through safe and dignified return and reintegration into their homeland, as well as third-country relocation.

During his Pakistan stay, according to a UNHCR statement, Grandi visited Peshawar and Haripur, meeting with Afghan refugees in urban settings as well as in a refugee village.

"People he met shared a message of anxiety regarding their situation, but also of their desire to contribute to their communities in Pakistan, as well as eventually in Afghanistan."

The high commissioner called for the timely extension of the PoR cards and expressed appreciation that the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan” had been suspended and sought assurances that it would remain on hold.

He called for Pakistan’s proud tradition of hospitality towards those Afghans with international protection needs to continue.

Recognising the challenges facing the country and the admirable generosity of the Pakistani government over 45 years of hosting Afghan refugees, Grandi called for an urgent reset of the aid model towards solutions and responsibility sharing, including fostering new partnerships and developing innovative approaches to addressing the protracted displacement situation.

The high commissioner offered to work towards a dialogue later this year, which will bring together key stakeholders — including government representatives, development actors, and the private sector — to develop a package of solutions that benefits both the Afghan population living in Pakistan and the host country itself.

Grandi also committed to redoubling efforts aimed at creating conditions conducive for returns to Afghanistan including from the perspective of material conditions, access to services, job opportunities, as well as rights — paving the way for sustainable voluntary returns in the future.