PESHAWAR: More than 100,000 undocumented Afghan nationals have registered themselves with the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) in one month and thus, securing the permission to continue staying in Pakistan for an indefinite period.

Officials said the registration process, which began on August 16, was going on smoothly across the country and that over 100,000 undocumented Afghans had so far been registered.

They said 80,000 Afghans had been documented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone, while 20,000 such refugees had received the Afghan Citizen Cards in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and federal territory.

The Nadra, Afghan Commissionerate and Afghanistan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation are jointly running the registration campaign, which will end on Dec 31.

The officials also said the period of the campaign could be extended.

The authority has been tasked with registering one million undocumented Afghan nationals within six months. A total of 21 registration centres have been set up in the country, including 11 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The officials said around more than one million Afghan nationals lived in the country without legal documents.

The country’s law-enforcement agencies had launched a crackdown on unregistered Afghans in the aftermath of a series of terrorist attacks.

The International Organisation of Migration, which assists and monitors the movement of migrants across the world, reported that 248,189 undocumented Afghan nationals had returned or were deported from Pakistan in 2016.

The sources said the newly-introduced Afghan Citizen Cards also attracted Afghan nationals from across the border.

They said Afghans returned to Pakistan through legal channels before approaching registration centres to get cards.

“We have reports that Afghans were coming from across the border to get themselves registered,” said one official, who is monitoring the movement of refugees in Peshawar.

Another relevant official said the reports might be true as there was no such mechanism available in the registration process to determine the duration of the stay of Afghans, who applied for the ACC.

He said officials of the Afghan government, who were present at every registration centre, verified the nationality of every applicant before issuing the card.

“When Afghan officials verify a case, then the Nadra is bound to issue the ACC,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Task Force dealing with refugees and undocumented Afghan nationals met in Islamabad on Wednesday, which discussed the registration process.

Commissioner Refugees Mohammad Saleem Khan chaired the meeting, which was also attended by officials of the Commissionerate from the four provinces, UNHCR, IOM and Afghan refugees and repatriation ministry.

According to an official, the meeting decided to establish call centres across the country to facilitate Afghan nationals interested in obtaining cards.

He said the call centres would make the process more transparent.

The official said the proposed call centres would prevent unnecessary influx of refugees into registration desks.

Director general (refugees) Waqar Maroof told Dawn in Peshawar that the Afghans’ registration process would remain suspended from first Muharram to 10th Muharram.

He said the federal and provincial government had suggested the suspension of the process for security reasons.

The DG said the police had put restriction on the movement of Afghan nationals during Muharram.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2017

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