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Federal Cabinet to Decide Fate of Documented Afghan Refugees

The federal cabinet is set to meet today (Wednesday) to determine the future of Afghan refugees residing in the country. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed concerns to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that only 9,000 out of 70,000 Afghans, who had worked for the US and allies, had been resettled in a third country over the past three years.

An anonymous government official told Dawn that Afghan nationals with a proof of residence (PoR) card might receive relief, as the cabinet will decide whether to extend their stay by six months or a year. “The cabinet will decide whether to extend the proof of residence card issued to Afghan refugees for six months or a year,” the source said.

This development follows a meeting between UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and PM Shehbaz on the final day of Grandi’s three-day visit to Pakistan.

During their meeting, the PM noted that out of the 70,000 Afghans who arrived in Pakistan after the fall of Kabul in 2021, only 9,000 had been resettled in a third country. The UNHCR had requested Pakistan not to repatriate these 70,000 Afghans, citing dangers to their lives if sent back to Afghanistan. The government agreed to send these Afghans to a third country, but progress has been slow, with only 9,000 resettled in three years. Grandi emphasized the need for longer-term solutions for Afghans in Pakistan and support for their host communities.

Grandi urged for a timely extension of the PoR cards, critical identity documents for over 1.3 million Afghan refugees. He expressed gratitude that the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan” had been suspended and sought assurances that it would remain on hold. He called for Pakistan to continue its tradition of hospitality towards Afghans with international protection needs.

Recognizing the challenges faced by Pakistan in hosting refugees for over 45 years, Grandi called for an urgent reset of the aid model to focus on solutions and shared responsibility, including new partnerships and innovative approaches to address the protracted displacement situation. “We need to seize this opportunity to accelerate solutions and have a bigger, broader vision for the Afghan people in Pakistan,” he added.

Grandi proposed a dialogue later this year with key stakeholders, including government representatives, development actors, and the private sector, to develop a package of solutions for the benefit of Afghans living in Pakistan and the host country itself.

He also committed to enhancing efforts to create conditions conducive to returns to Afghanistan, focusing on material conditions, access to services, job opportunities, and rights — paving the way for sustainable voluntary returns in the future.

Meanwhile, as Pakistan continues to host around three million Afghans, all potential solutions need to be considered, including voluntary repatriation, third-country resettlement, and longer-term solutions within Pakistan.

Meanwhile, as Pakistan continues to host around three million Afgans , all potential solutions need to be considered, including Voluntary respiration, third-country resettlement and long-term solution within Pakistan.

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