Pakistan urged to extend Afghan refugee status

New York, Jan 17 (IANS) The Pakistan government should reduce rights violations against Afghan refugees by extending their legal residency status until at least end of 2017, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

On January 12, the government extended registered Afghan refugees’ Proof of Residency (PoR) cards until June 30, 2016.

As Human Rights Watch has documented, the uncertain residency status of Afghan refugees in Pakistan has encouraged police harassment, threats, and extortion of Afghan refugees, particularly since the December 2014 attack on a Peshawar school by the Pakistani Taliban, the rights body said.

“Pakistan’s six-month residency extension reduces Afghan refugees’ insecurity but the government also needs to stop police abuse of refugees,” said Human Rights Watch.

“A two-year extension both sends the message that refugees shouldn’t be pressured to go home and would give officials time to work out resettlement to third countries and other longer-term solutions.”

Pakistan is host to one of the largest displaced populations in the world.

The 2.5 million Afghan refugees, which according to the UNHCR include an estimated one million undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan, consist of many who fled conflict and repression in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and their descendants.

Some arrived as children, grew up in Pakistan, married, and had children of their own who have never lived in Afghanistan. Others have arrived in the decades of turmoil in Afghanistan since seeking security, employment, and a higher standard of living.

Afghans in Pakistan have experienced a sharp increase in hostility since the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, killing 145 people, including 132 children.

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