ISLAMABAD, June 19: Adnan Noori, a refugee from Iraq, had migrated to Pakistan after the Gulf war in 1990 to escape the threats and difficulties faced by his fellow Kurds in the country.
However, despite spending 23 years in Pakistan and having been registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), he has not been able to shake off his problems.
“I had a traffic accident in 2009 which left me paralysed at one hand and leg.
“Dr Mazhar Badshah, a neurologist at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), has told me that I cannot be treated in Pakistan and would need to travel to the US,” Mr Noori said.
“I contacted the UNHCR many times to arrange for the treatment but it is not considering my case at all. Three months ago I fell in the house and got my hand fractured,” he said.
During the Gulf War, as many as 4,000 Kurds migrated to Pakistan as refugees, and after 23 years only 240 are left. Most of them want to migrate to European countries or the US, and have been trying to get immigration: primarily because of the increasing financial woes in Pakistan.
Another refugee, Adil Jafar Lifta Al-Aamiri, said his wife was seriously ill.
“One of her lungs is not working at all while the other is only 30 per cent functional. She cannot be treated in Pakistan but the UNHCR is not taking up my case,” he said.
“I have contacted the UNHCR time and again but it questions as to how a patient suffering from lungs ailment will be able to travel by air. I have certificates from different doctors who have cleared her of traveling by air,” Mr Al-Aamiri said.
Yunus Mohammad Siddique, another Kurd, claimed that he could not return to Iraq because of enmity which was why he wanted to proceed to the US.
Yahya Javed said the UNHCR had already sent his wife to Canada whereas he had been living in Pakistan for the last one year.
Mohammad Salam, another refugee from Iraq, has a unique case.
He said: “The UNHCR has sent my wife and daughter to Sweden and my son to Canada. I have been living in Pakistan for the last two years. I should also be sent to either country. At least I would be with someone from my family.”
According to spokesperson for the UNHCR, Duniya Aslam Khan, refugees in Pakistan have been divided into two categories – Afghan and Non-Afghan.
“There are 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees and around 1,000 registered non-Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Most of the non-Afghan refugees are from Somalia, Iraq and Russia,” she said.
Ms Khan said the UNHCR encouraged refugees to return voluntarily to their home country which was called ‘repatriation’.
If they don’t want to go back they can get the citizenship of the country in which they are living as refugees. Nepal gives citizenship to refugees.
A third option is that the UNHCR tries to settle them in another country through immigration, she added.
“Unfortunately Pakistan refused to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention as a result of which refugees in Pakistan can neither work nor acquire citizenship of the country,” the spokesperson said.
“Although the UNHCR has limited resources, we still have managed to get around 800 to 1,000 refugees in Pakistan settled in different countries including Canada, the US and Europe. A large number of refugees want to go abroad so we accept only the most vulnerable ones e.g. minors without parents, minorities at risk, family reunion or other genuine cases,” she said.
An official of the UNHCR, requesting not to be identified, said there were 1.6 million registered Afghans in Pakistan who lived in camps, making them secure. Whereas, non-Afghan refugees are less in number and were facing more problems.
This is the reason why they prefer to get settled abroad. Most vulnerable among them are the Kurds who had come from Iraq in 1990, he added.
Meanwhile, Duniya Aslam Khan said the UNHCR had been giving priority to cases of family reunion.
Last month an Afghan girl was sent to the US as her family was already settled there, she added.
“We get cases of immigration from all over the world and at the moment mostly, Iranians, Afghans and Uzbeks are being considered for immigration because they are facing more problems compared to others,” Ms Khan said.