Over 500,000 Afghan refugees receive new ‘smart cards’

Over 500,000 Afghan refugees receive new 'smart cards'

PESHAWAR: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that since April this year, 500,000 registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan have been issued ‘smart cards’ instead of Proof of Registration (POR) cards.

At the start of the smart card issuance process in April, UNHCR had said that with the help of Pakistan National Registration and Information Agency (NADRA), about 1.4 registered Afghan refugees will be provided such cards after verification.  

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According to the UNHCR the process had been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, but efforts are being made to ensure that all registered refugees get smart cards. With the smart cards, the refugees can open bank accounts, access education and healthcare facilities.

The information on Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan was not updated for the last ten years and now with the smart cards, this information will be updated and verified. The UNHCR said it has setup 40 centers in Pakistan, most of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to register and issue cards to 1.4 million registered refugees.

Abbas Khan, head of the Afghan High Commission in Peshawar said that every Afghan refugee should visit their designated center to get verified smart card. There are currently around 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, 30% of whom live in camps.

Apart from the refugees registered with the UNHCR, there are about 500,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan, of which about nine lakh were registered jointly by NADRA and the Afghan embassy in Islamabad in 2016 and 2017. But Pakistan’s Ministry of Frontier regions and Tribal Affairs says up to 500,000 unregistered refugees are also living in the country.

Pakistan in the past announced the repatriation of Afghan refugees, but the decision was never implemented and the deadlines for repatriation have been extended because of the prevailing security and financial crisis in Afghanistan. In his address to the United Nation, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Pakistan can no more afford the burden of Afghan refugees.

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