Police arrest 632 unregistered Afghans in fresh drive

Javed Aziz Khan
Tuesday, Sep 19, 2023

PESHAWAR: Police have arrested 632 Afghan nationals in the provincial capital for not possessing any document to legalize their stay in the country, it has been learnt. The drive against the unregistered Afghans has been accelerated for several weeks.

“In the last one and a half months, Peshawar Police have registered 491 cases under 14 Foreigners Act against Afghan nationals who had no document to legalize their stay in Pakistan. As many as 632 Afghans were arrested during the period from different areas of the provincial capital,” spokesman for the Peshawar Police, Muhammad Alam, told The News, adding actions against the unregistered Afghans are going on as per routine.

The unregistered Afghans are being held during search and strike operations in different areas as well as on the checking points after they fail to provide any document. More checking points have been erected in Peshawar and other cities to improve law and order.

The data of those who have allegedly obtained fake Pakistani identity cards is also being collected by various departments. The Federal Investigation Agency last week arrested four officials of National Database and Registration Authority for alleged involvement in issuing Pakistani CNICs to Afghan nationals.

Millions of Afghan nationals have been living in Pakistan for decades after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. A huge majority of them are enjoying the refugee status after being registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A large number of others are living here after having valid Pakistani visas.

However, there are a large number of other Afghans living in Pakistan who neither have a visa nor they possess a proof of registration (PoR) card issued by the UNHCR. Action is being taken against them under the 14 Foreigners Act and they are deported to their country. There were reports that apart from unregistered Afghans, many refugees were also arrested in parts of other provinces in the last several days.

“We are concerned about reports of the arrest and detention of Afghan refugees in Sindh province. Some of the refugees with PoR cards have been released while some are in custody,” said Qaisar Khan Afridi, the spokesman for the UNHCR Pakistan.

“UNHCR raised the issue of arrests and detention with the federal government and the Sindh government and they assured us that no action will be taken against refugees. People should not be punished or criminalized for exercising their fundamental human right to seek asylum,” said the UNHCR spokesman. He said the registered Afghan refugees with PoR cards have the legal right to reside in Pakistan and to move freely around the country.

The spokesman added that UNHCR released non-return advisories for Afghanistan in August 2021 and in February 2022 and February 2023 - calling for a bar on forced returns of Afghan nationals regardless the status, including asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected. “We continue to urge neighbouring countries to provide refuge to those seeking safety, as they have done for years,” he added.