Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Pakistan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 11 July 2007
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Pakistan, 11 July 2007, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

Citing security concerns, Pakistan deported several hundred Afghans without allowing the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to screen them. It deported other Afghans for non-security-related offenses throughout the year. In some cases, authorities allowed UNHCR or the 13 legal clinics it established to assist potential deportees.

In April, an Afghan refugee in Quetta, Baluchistan Province, accidentally detonated a bomb he was handling, killing himself and four members of his family, including two children. In August, Islamic militants kidnapped an Afghan refugee from a camp in North Waziristan, one of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, alleged that he was a U.S. spy, and shot him three times in the head, killing him. In May 2007, Taliban militants beheaded another Afghan refugee in North Waziristan, also accusing him spying for the United States.

Pakistan was not party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, and had no legislation to recognize refugees. The 1946 Foreigners Act (amended 2000) remained the only law applying to refugees and asylum seekers even though it recognized no distinction between them and other foreigners.

The Government registered 2.16 million Afghans by the end of January 2007, out of an estimated 2.4 million Afghans in the country. Some 84 percent of Afghans were unwilling to return, with nearly 42 percent citing security as the primary reason and 24 percent citing lack of jobs in Afghanistan.

During 2006, UNHCR assisted roughly 133,000 Afghans in repatriating and nearly 9,700 returned without assistance, well below the 400,000 UNHCR had planned. UNHCR attributed the low numbers to "the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the challenging economic and social conditions inside the country," and the long exile, during which half the refugees were born outside Afghanistan. In 2007, UNHCR increased from $60 to $100 the repatriation grant it offered returnees and, as of April, only those who registered were eligible. Of the unregistered who sought repatriation grants, UNHCR found 30 percent to be ineligible either because they had no proof that they had lived in Pakistan during the previous year, or iris scans revealed they had already returned to Afghanistan with UNHCR's assistance. UNHCR also assisted two refugees from Iraq and four from Somalia in returning to their homelands. Third countries accepted just over 120 refugees, including Afghans, Iranians, and Chinese.

Some 17,000 displaced Kashmiris remained in a refugee-like situation on the Pakistani side of the line of demarcation between Pakistan and India.

Detention/Access to Courts

During 2006, the Advice and Legal Aid Center (ALAC) set up by UNHCR and Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid intervened in the cases of 148 detained Afghan refugees. Of these, authorities released 143, but held five pending court decisions at year's end. Officials selectively enforced the 1946 Foreigners Act, on several occasions arresting hundreds of Afghans at a time, and UNHCR intervened to secure their release. Security forces often harassed Afghan refugees in their search for Al Qaeda.

Arrests of Afghans under the Foreigners Act generally declined in 2006, especially in Punjab Province. After dozens of arrests there in 2005, UNHCR intervened with the Punjab authorities who agreed to issue a directive to cease arrests of Afghans for immigration violations. In February, as a goodwill gesture to visiting President Karzai of Afghanistan, Pakistan released nearly 600 Afghans authorities had arrested and held for six months in immigration crackdowns in Karachi.

By end of January 2007, Pakistan issued identity cards to the nearly 2.16 million Afghans it registered. These cards legalized their stay in the country, and were valid through December 2009.

The 1973 Constitution granted the same protections against arrest and detention to all persons. The Foreigners Act authorized the arrest and detention of undocumented aliens, making no exception for refugees. Afghans with the new identity cards were exempt from its provisions, however. Foreigners who knowingly entered Pakistan illegally were subject to as many as ten years in prison, a $165 (10,000 rupees) fine, and deportation at the end of the sentence.

Refugees had access to the court system for criminal and civil matters. The ALACs assisted them in criminal matters as well as in dealing with issues including harassment by police or other community members, family law matters, and rent disputes.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Around 977,000 Afghan refugees lived in 86 camps, but more than half (55 percent) of those who registered did not. Afghan refugees were generally free to move about the country and live where they chose. Material aid was largely restricted to refugees who lived in camps, although recognized refugees living outside the camps received some aid.

As a security precaution, Pakistan reportedly ordered Afghan refugees to remain in their camps during a March visit from U.S. President George W. Bush, and arrested 150 who violated the ban. The 1973 Constitution limited its protection of freedom of movement to citizens.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

The 1946 Foreigners Act prohibited employers from hiring "a person who has no permission to stay in Pakistan," but authorities generally tolerated refugees working in the informal sector. Only a fifth had jobs, nearly half of those in unskilled or day labor, and the vast majority earning less than the minimum wage of $66 (4,000 rupees) per month. Some 200 Pakistani civil society groups meeting in federal and provincial capitals in 2005 recommended that the Government grant Afghans formal work permits to "ensure uniform treatment of Afghan and Pakistani labor and raise wage levels." Pakistan also lacked a professional registration process with criteria for degree equivalence, hindering the ability of Afghan doctors, nurses, technicians, teachers, lawyers, and engineers to practice.

In formal trade, Afghan refugees required Pakistani partners and could not hold immovable property or the necessary legal documents to run businesses on their own. In the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Afghan refugees dominated the transportation industry; but others complained that their lack of clear legal status and the Government's unpredictable stance prevented them from making secure long-term investments.

Afghan Taliban sympathizers harassed some female refugees employed by nongovernmental organizations.

Public Relief and Education

UNHCR and international humanitarian organizations provided basic health services in camps, mainly those in NWFP. Church World Service offered women's clinics, disease prevention and treatment programs, nutrition, and immunization. These programs had brought down the maternal mortality rate of 500 per 100,000 live births to 39 per 100,000 live births.

About 71 percent of Afghans in Pakistan had no formal education. Basic Education for Awareness, Reforms and Empowerment, a UNHCR implementing partner, ran 171 schools in camps in the NWFP. Only about 43 percent of adolescents were literate, including only 25 percent of adolescent girls. Literacy rates were slightly higher among urban refugees.

Pakistan granted UNHCR and humanitarian agencies access to aid refugees and, in 2007, donated $5 million (303 million rupees) for the repatriation effort, but did not mention refugees or Afghans in the 2003 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper it prepared for international donors.

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