UN agencies ‘stand ready’ to support Pakistan in registering, managing Afghan refugees

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) “stand ready” to provide support in registering and managing Afghan nationals, the agencies said on Saturday.

The statement comes amidst the government’s crackdown on illegal immigrants residing across the country.

Earlier this week, the government gave an ultimatum to all undocumented immigrants, including Afghan nationals, to leave Pakistan by October 31, or else risk imprisonment and deportation to their respective countries.

The decision was taken in an apex committee meeting headed by Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir, among others.

The committee had decided that movement across the border would be subject to passports and visas, while electronic Afghan identity cards (or e-tazkiras) would only be accepted until Oct 31.

After the passage of the deadline, the authorities will kickstart an operation targeting illegal properties and businesses owned by immigrants or those being run in collaboration with Pakistani nationals.

The move had drawn a response from Afghan authorities, with Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid terming it “unacceptable” while urging authorities to revisit the policy.

In a joint statement today, both UN agencies stated they had a “longstanding and strong collaboration” with Pakistan and stood ready to “provide support in developing a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism to register and manage Afghan nationals, including those who may be in need of international protection”.

It added that the UNHCR and IOM said they were appealing to Pakistan to “continue its protection of all vulnerable Afghans who have sought safety in the country and could be at imminent risk if forced to return”.

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