ISLAMABAD – Pakistan is the largest refugee-hosting country in the world with currently hosting some 1.6 million registered refugees.
The data released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on the World Refugees Day say that the Afghanistan remains the world's leading source of refugees. According to figures, around 2.6 million Afghan refugees are currently living worldwide with the majority hosted by Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan is the largest protracted refugee situation globally.
Since March 2002, UNHCR has facilitated the return of 3.8 million registered Afghans from Pakistan in the world's largest voluntary repatriation operation, said the official document of UNHCR. The Government of Pakistan, with UNHCR assistance, issues new refugee cards to more than 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees. These Proof of Registration (PoR) cards are valid till the end of 2015.
Pakistan's Cabinet decided in July of 2013 to further extend the temporary stay of Afghan refugees. The refugee card is important as it provides for Afghans to legally remain in Pakistan and thereby protects against risks such as extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention as well as deportation under Pakistan's Foreigner's Act.
Efforts to promote durable solutions for Afghans are being pursued through the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), launched at an international conference in Geneva in May 2012, complemented by the Government of Pakistan's national policy on Afghan refugees adopted in July 2013. UNHCR will continue to advocate for Pakistan to adopt national legislation on refugees, said UNHCR.
Afghan refugees who have fled Afghanistan due to violence and persecution at various times since 1979, of which close to 40 per cent are living in refugee villages and close to 60 percent in urban and rural host communities throughout Pakistan; and asylum- seekers and individually recognized refugees from various countries, who are living mainly in urban areas, and once recognized by UNHCR under its mandate, are channelled through the resettlement procedures, UNHCR added.
UNHCR will focus on improving registration, protection needs assessments and refugee status determination, together with increasing the resettlement options for those unable to repatriate or facing serious protection challenges. The UNHCR has been assisting the return of these refugees through cash donations.
Every year, UNHCR holds several special events to recognize the lives of refugees and those who are dedicated to helping them. UNHCR's two blue ribbon events are the World Refugee Day and the Nansen Refugee Award.