Pakistan ‘rules out’ refugee status for Afghans

Published May 8, 2022
ISLAMABAD: Afghan families seeking to move to the US and other Western countries under refugee resettlement programmes sit outside the National Press Club on Saturday.—Photo by Tanveer Shahzad/White Star
ISLAMABAD: Afghan families seeking to move to the US and other Western countries under refugee resettlement programmes sit outside the National Press Club on Saturday.—Photo by Tanveer Shahzad/White Star

WASHINGTON: Paki­stan has ruled out refugee status for Afghan asylum-seekers but is facilitating their stay and onward journeys to destinations in the West, the Voice of America (VOA) broadcasting service reported on Saturday.

Another VOA report said that the United States was giving Ukraine 16 Mi-17 helicopters that were meant for Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials said that since the Taliban takeover, more than 100,000 urban Afghans have arrived in the country on valid visas.

“They are largely vulnerable Afghans seeking to move to the US and other Western countries under refugee resettlement programmes,” the report added.

It quoted Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmed Khan as saying that every day the mission was issuing 700 to 1,000 multiple entry visas to Afghans. “We are issuing visas to Afghans more liberally than any other neighbouring country or any other country in the world. We are doing so to help address Afghans’ humanitarian concerns,” Mr Khan said.

“But if they (Afghans) want their status to be converted into a refugee status, that will not happen nor will we allow it,” he said. “We simply don’t want an increase in refugees.”

Many asylum-seekers said they would prefer to stay in Islamabad while waiting for their visas for destinations in the West, instead of returning to Afghanistan.

The other VOA report pointed out that the US Department of Defence (DOD) notified Congress in January that it intended to give the Ukrainian government five of the Russian-built helicopters, which had been undergoing maintenance at a Ukrainian facility.

“Ukraine accepted these excess defence articles on March 11,” the Special Inspector Gen­eral for Afghanistan Re­construction (SIG­AR) noted in its quarterly report submitted to US lawmakers this week. SIGAR is a US government agency charged with monitoring Afghan events.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2022

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