Over 600,000 refugees from Afghanistan fled to Pakistan in past two years

In the two years since the Taliban regained control of the country, over 600,000 people from Afghanistan have fled to Pakistan, according to a UN agency’s spokesperson.

Following a systematic collapse of the Western-backed republic government – that paved the way for the return to power of the Taliban – hundreds of thousands of people have left Afghanistan, both legally and illegally, in search of a better life.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman in Islamabad, Qaiser Khan Afridi said that at least 1.3 million refugees from Afghanistan were already being hosted by Pakistan at the time of the Taliban takeover.

“In addition to the new arrival, Pakistan hosts 1.3 million Afghan refugees who are holding Proof of Registration Cards issued by the government,” Afridi said as quoted by some media.

According to media reports, a one-time Afghanistan Citizen Card (ACC) which was issued by the Pakistan government in 2017 to approximately 880,000 refugees, expired this year.

Afridi said more than 16,000 refugees have returned to Afghanistan through the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation program over the past two-years.

He said that they are hopeful for a positive outcome on this issue.

“UNHCR is in talks with Pakistani authorities about extending the registration cards of Afghan refugees,” he said.

“They are going to Pakistan because of severe insecurity and because of lack of a good job or because of their political cases in a third country, Pakistan,” said Bahija Sadaat, a refugees rights activist.

This comes as the Pakistani media reported that more than 150 refugees have been detained by the country’s police over the past few days.

Refugee rights activists believe that Islamabad has been using the refugee situation as a political and economic tool.

“Why has the Islamic Emirate and the international community remained silent? The Afghan refugees have been facing psychological problems,” said Zahir Bahand, a journalist.

Refugees meanwhile claim that since the militant attack in Chitral, in Balochistan, Pakistani police have stepped up arrests of refugees from Afghanistan.

“The poor people are struggling with problems. The Pakistani government is not giving them any visas,” said Farid, a refugee from Afghanistan.

“The Afghans who don’t have legal documents are being harassed by the police in various cities. Sometimes their houses are being searched during the night; if they don’t have documents, they will be sent to prison,” said Faridon, another refugee.

According to UNHCR, almost two million refugees from Afghanistan are currently living in Pakistan.