Pakistan to issue smart cards to Afghan refugees

Published March 3, 2021
In this file photo, Afghan refugees wait to register at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriation centre on the outskirts of Peshawar. — AFP
In this file photo, Afghan refugees wait to register at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriation centre on the outskirts of Peshawar. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday announced the Afghan refugees whose ‘Proof of Registration’ (PoR) cards had expired in 2015 would be given new smart cards after verification this year.

The Chief Commissione­rate for Afghan Refugees in the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will start the “Document Renewal and Information Verification Exercise” (Drive) from April 1.

During the six-month exercise, Nadra will verify and update the data of the registered Afghan refugees who have the PoR cards with an expiry date of December 31, 2015. The initiative takes place within the framework of the ‘Support Platform for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees’, fostering renewed partnerships and stronger strategic linkages between humanitarian and development investments.

As many as 40 Drive centres are being set up across Pakistan. Upon verification of their data, these Afghan refugees will receive new PoR smart cards. The new smart cards will provide Afghan refugees with renewed proof of their identity, enhancing their protection in Pakistan, and will help facilitate identity authentication making access to services faster, safer and more effective.

“This is a long-overdue exercise. It’s been 10 years since the last such initiative. It is crucial at this juncture to update the data of Afghan refugees. I commend the international community for supporting this important exercise,” said Saleem Khan, the Chief Commissio­ner for Afghan Refugees in Pakistan.

UNHCR Representative in Pakistan Noriko Yoshida appreciated the government for taking this initiative to help improve the lives of the Afghan refugees.

The Nadra spokesperson said the multi-biometric PoR cards would be issued as part of this exercise. Specialised staff and state-of-art infrastructure would be utilised.

Pakistan hosts 1.4 million Afghan refugees who hold PoR cards. In addition to validating existing data, the verification will record Afghan refugees’ skill sets, level of education, socio-economic circumstances and sources of income.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2021

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