Pakistan extends stay of registered Afghan refugees by one year

Deported migrants from Pakistan. File photo.

Pakistan announced on Wednesday a one-year extension for registered Afghan refugees, easing fears of immediate repatriation to Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government had previously declared the repatriation of all undocumented migrants, citing security concerns in October of last year.

Repatriation of undocumented Afghans began on November 1, with officials now reporting that up to 500,000 have been repatriated. Initially, authorities stated there were nearly 1.7 million undocumented Afghans, most of whom had resided in Pakistan for 40 years.

“The federal cabinet approved a one-year extension of the validity of PoR (Proof of Registration) cards for 1.45 million Afghan refugees. Their PoR cards had expired on June 30, 2024. The extension has been granted until June 30, 2025,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to the UN refugee agency, Pakistan remains home to approximately 1.3 million registered Afghans.

PoR cards serve as critical identity documents for registered Afghan refugees.

In addition to registered refugees, more than 800,000 Afghans hold Afghan citizenship cards, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The federal cabinet’s approval of the PoR card extension was welcomed by the UNHCR.

“This is a significant relief for refugees who were facing uncertainty and anxiety,” UNHCR spokesman Qaisar Khan Afridi said, as reported by Pakistani media.

Afridi noted that 52 percent of PoR cardholders live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with over 315,000 in Balochistan, around 195,000 in Punjab, 75,000 in Sindh, 40,000 in Islamabad, and some in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.