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Refugees in Pakistan being harassed: UN

KABUL: The United Nations is faced with funding and legal problems in dealing with the issue of voluntary repatriation of 1.5 million Afghan refugees from Pakistan, an official said on Tuesday.

In an effort to tackle the issue, the UN refugee agency is trying to convince Pakistan into integratinga certain number of registered Afghans, said Jacques Franquin, head of the UNHCR sub-office in Peshawar.

However, Pakistani authorities insist on the repatriation of registered Afghans, whose Proof of Registration (PoR) cards will expire at the end of the current year. “We have been working to convince Pakistan to open the door a little bit.

For its part, Pakistan has ruled out any flexibility on the question of integrating the refugees or extending their stay, citing donor fatigue and security concerns. The UNHCR is not associated with the registration of undocumented Afghan nationals.

Since the eruption of the conflict 35 years ago, the UNHCR has sent back more than three million Afghans to their country. The world body has been pushing Pakistan to show flexibility and compassion to the refugees.

Jacques Franquin alleged even refugees with valid documents were being harassed at security checkpoints after the December 16terrorist attack on the Army Public School and College in Peshawar.

About 15,000 genuine refugees have returned to their country over the last three months, as the new government in Kabul has demonstrated a willingness to receive its people.“The UN agency is not asking for extension after extension for PoR card-holders, because it does not provide a durable solution.”

About 700 PoR card-holders have been arrested across the country following the Peshawar terrorist attack, according to UNHCR protection officer Bashir Ahmad, who said the world body had provided legal assistance to the detainees. (PAN)

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