How Pakistan helps Afghans get back on their feet
The project in brief
The Government of Pakistan and UNHCR
- 2006 – The registration exercise for Afghans started in 2006 who were issued with Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
- 2017 – Documentation of un-registered Afghan nationals – ACC (Afghan Citizen Card).
The project has been completed successfully.
- To document identity and address the vulnerabilities and hardships of refugees.
- To establish a proper and efficient databank of their identities.
- To facilitate acquisition of different services and incentives being offered to refugees from time to time.
Main activities of the Good Practice
A joint exercise by the Government of Pakistan and UNHCR to document and register all Afghan refugees under the PoR scheme was undertaken in 2006. In the course of the exercise, which was extensive and transparent, personal data, biometrics, photographs, and relevant details and family relationships were gathered and recorded. Proof of Card Modification (PCM) centres, working on updating data, are maintained in each province and are provided with fool proof security and assistance by the Government of Pakistan.
The Afghan Citizen Card (ACC) exercise was fully funded by the Government of Pakistan.
Twenty-one registration centres were established across the country, equipped with staff and material resources.
- Government of Pakistan
- Government of Afghanistan
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Approaching and convincing the target population living in remote areas and those with little knowledge of this beneficial exercise were challenges.
- A media campaign, local meetings, grand meetings (Jirgas), personal visits, and making leading opinion-makers aware of the exercise and its importance were effective in preventing attempts to disrupt the project.
- Advisory and communication cells have been established to provide Afghan refugees with guidance regarding services and policy matters in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Afghan refugees have been granted access to the Prime Minister’s Complaint Cell, i.e. the Pakistan Citizens’ Portal, whereby they can lodge grievances and seek guidance regarding policy and assistance.
Results of the Good Practice
Our comprehensive documentation and registration process contributes to all four objectives of Global Compact on Refugees. It includes maintenance of one of the largest databases of refugees, comprising their complete details, biometrics, and addresses. The entire exercise has been carried out in a transparent manner by the Government of Pakistan through its National Database and Registration Authority and has been widely acknowledged by the international community.
The Government of Pakistan has provided shelter and safety to millions of Afghan refugees over four decades. The generosity, hospitality, and compassion of Pakistanis towards Afghan sisters and brothers is highlighted by the support the refugees have received. Their registration and identity documents have facilitated their access to free and public primary education, health care, subsidized food and non-food items, water, electricity, livelihood opportunities, and other essential services.
Different vocational and skills development programs have been launched for the refugees in Pakistan. Thousands of refugees – male and female – have been given training in trades such as embroidery, tailoring, computing and IT, masonry, plumbing, electrics, and beauty treatment, among others. Afghan refugees are granted scholarships under government programs to attend college and university courses such as medicine, engineering, and IT, and also to pursue doctorates in some disciplines.
The Government of Pakistan has allowed all registered Afghan refugees to open bank accounts to ensure their earnings are safeguarded and to give them economic stability. Afghan refugees have always been helped to run their own businesses throughout the country. They have engaged in business activities, such as carpet weaving, transport, beekeeping, etc.
After food distribution in camps was discontinued in 1995, thousands of Afghans moved to urban settlements built as an urgent measure to ease pressure on local communities and resources. The government has provided them with basic facilities such as education and health services. For this, the documentation of refugees has assisted in forecasting and future planning.
The Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, through bilateral and regional approaches, have agreed to create an environment conducive to voluntary repatriation and reintegration through a reliable registration process. Under this approach, both governments have identified areas for safe and dignified return. Efforts to this end are under way, and considerable improvements have been made in providing basic facilities inside Afghanistan. Under various agreements, the Government of Pakistan shares data about Afghan refugees with the Government of Afghanistan to strengthen the re-integration process and sustainable voluntary repatriation.
With assistance from UNHCR and the international community, the Government of Pakistan has launched a joint program called “Refugees Affected and Hosting Areas”. So far, more than 4,000 projects have been implemented in refugee-hosting areas to ensure social cohesion between the two communities. Under this program, various sectors were addressed ,especially Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services (WASH), health, education, livelihoods, agriculture, etc. An assessment study by UNHCR showed that considerable social cohesion has been achieved.
The host community has warmly welcomed this joint initiative and has put pressure on the government to continue with the program.
- A comprehensive documentation exercise to modify and update information about PoR cardholders.
- Working with interested groups, organizations, and countries to improve planning and provide services to the target population.
- Work with the Government of Afghanistan is in progress.
Farhat Ayesha, Counsellor-II, Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations