KARACHI: Police claim to have arrested 766 illegal Afghan refugees in districts central and west of Karachi during search operations carried out between Dec 21, 2014 and March 21, 2016.

The statistics are part of a recently prepared report by the DIG-West which will be presented to the home department in the coming days.

These arrests were made under the National Action Plan (NAP) prepared in January 2015 for a countrywide crackdown on terrorism and tracking terror financing by its financiers.

Illegal Afghan refugees were arrested every year in large numbers by the police specifically in the Camp Jadeed and Afghan Basti localities. Most of the arrested Afghans were sent either to Landhi jail or Gadani jail and then deported back home, a police official said.

Out of the 766 arrested Afghans mentioned in the report, 541 were arrested in west district and 225 in central district . Around 730 were sent to jail, out of which 211 were released on bail.

At the same time, cases were registered against 472 illegal Afghan refugees, according to the office of the DIG-West.

Afghan refugees in Camp Jadeed said that after the inception of the NAP, the police in west district had arrested them under the Foreigner Registration Act.

Explosive material, weapons and hate literature were also recovered during these arrests and cases were registered against clerics who did not follow the recently promulgated Sound System Act.

Speaking to Dawn, the DIG-West admitted that “not all of these arrests made it to the court, nor proper punishment was given to them”.

One such example is the 472 cases ‘registered’ against illegal Afghan immigrants, who were never arrested. Of those cases in which arrests were made (766 in total), 211 suspects were released on bail after they produced documents of their registration.

A large number of Afghan refugees have been living in Pakistan for the past 35 years fuelling discussions over the impact they have on the country’s already diminishing resources.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), around 1.5 million (registered) refugees are living in Pakistan. According to the UNHCR officials, these refugees were registered for the first time in 2005, some 26 years after the Afghan-Soviet War, which began in 1979, leading to mass exodus of Afghans towards Pakistan.

During countless meetings, the UNHCR officials made it clear that they could speak up for the registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, as they have all the required documents, but not for the unregistered ones insisting that a distinction should be made between the illegal and the registered refugees.

A UNHCR officer added that there were 67,000 refugees in Sindh, but that their number continued to increase and decrease depending on their constant entering and leaving Pakistan through the porous border it shares with Afghanistan.

The demands to repatriate illegal Afghan refugees became louder after militants attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014.

The Proof of Registration (PoR) cards issued to the refugees in 2006 by the government of Pakistan, whose expiry had been extended twice with the recent extension ended in December 2015, have come under the spotlight.

The government extended the expiry of the PoR cards considering the worsening situation in Afghanistan, specifically in the country’s South and East areas. But as the date of the expiration of the refugee cards ended on December 31, 2015, many of the Afghan refugees are uncertain about their future in the country.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2016

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