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Procedure to grant refugee status to Iraqis announced

October 03, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Oct 2: The UN refugee agency has announced the procedure for grant of refugee-status to the Iraqi refugees in Pakistan, a spokesman for the UNHCR said.

Talking to Dawn here on Tuesday, the spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that so far about 150 Iraqis had approached the agency for temporary stay in Pakistan. Most of them have been granted refugee-status while some applications are in the process, the spokesman said.

The refuge-seekers who are cleared by the agency would be accepted as refugees by the government of Pakistan, the spokesman added.

Traditionally, the Iraqis who apply for refugee-status in Pakistan are assessed by the UNHCR under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. In order to be recognised as refugees, they need to prove that they have a well-founded fear of individual persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social or political group, the spokesman said.

In 2006, due to deteriorating situation in some parts of Iraq, the agency announced that refuge-seekers from Southern and Central Iraq were generally considered to be in need of international protection. In case, they do not meet the criteria mentioned, they should be considered as refugees under the UNHCR mandate by the application of extended refugee definition, owing to a situation of generalised violence in their country of origin, the spokesman added.

As a result, the Iraqis in Pakistan whose refugee-status was rejected now have the right to ask the agency to re-open and re- examine their cases under the broader mandate. If recognized as refugees, they will be given a UNHCR card, and needy individuals can apply for social assistance. Such refugees are entitled to subsistence allowance and medical facilities from the agency, the spokesman explained.

However, Iraqis recognized as refugees under the broader mandate do not qualify for resettlement in a third country. Resettlement countries will only accept refugees recognized under the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, he said.

The UNHCR role in the resettlement process is to submit ‘serious protection cases’ of recognized refugees to resettlement countries for consideration. Ultimately, it is up to the resettlement countries which are to decide whether or not accept a submitted case.

Resettlement is one of three durable solutions the agency is seeking for some 10 million refugees worldwide. Due to the limited number of places available, resettlement is seen as the last resort when the other two solutions, voluntary repatriation and local integration, are not possible, the spokesman concluded.