Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

World Refugee Survey 2008 - Pakistan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, World Refugee Survey 2008 - Pakistan, 19 June 2008, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
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.

PAK figures


About 2.16 million Afghans registered with the Government. Since 1979, Pakistan had hosted millions of Afghan refugees it recognized on a prima facie basis. In a two-phase UNHCR repatriation program between March and November, over 357,000 Afghans returned, of whom only 150,000 had registered.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reports of refoulement of refugees registered with the Government. In late January, however, officials in Bajaur repatriated nearly 40 Afghans without documents. In March, authorities handed than 50 Afghans over to Afghan officials after arresting them under the Foreigners Act. Afghans were also reportedly among the 554 foreign students of local madrasas whom Pakistan deported in August.

Pakistani officials claimed Taliban insurgents had infiltrated four border camps and used them as a base when attacking NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. In June, police in Peshawar announced they would begin door-to-door searches for unregistered refugees and would expel those they found without valid documentation. In August, UNCHR warned that Pakistan was pressuring refugees to repatriate by closing camps, deeming unregistered refugees illegal, threatening to confiscate their property and documents, and threatening to fine those who rented property to refugees. A survey during registration revealed that more than four-fifths of Afghan refugees were unwilling to return, citing security as their leading concern. Authorities claimed that 20,000 repatriated Afghans reentered in May. In June, the States and Frontier Regions Secretary acknowledged that Afghan insecurity made returns unsustainable.

In April, refugees stoned a UNHCR repatriation center in Baleli, Balochistan. Police responded with baton charges and tear gas, injuring four. In April, an Afghan refugee died in Peshawar when paramilitary forces fired on a crowd that was beating a UNHCR worker who had allegedly demanded bribes. In mid-May, Afghan refugees clashed with security forces that were trying to bulldoze several homes a day after authorities razed 70 shops and three houses to close Katcha Garhi camp, near Peshawar. During attempts to close Jungle Pir Alizai camp in Balochistan, at least three refugees died and ten sustained injuries in clashes with security forces seeking to make them repatriate or move to a camp in the remote and inhospitable Hindu Kush Mountains. Authorities suspended the closure.

In January, Pakistanis in the Mohmand tribal area stoned a refugee to death after elders sentenced him to death for murder and abduction. Also in January, three or four refugees in Jalozai camp died in a bomb blast authorities attributed to a personal dispute. In February, North Waziristan militants beheaded a refugee for allegedly spying for the United States. In April, unknown persons killed two Afghan girls from Surkhab refugee camp while they were selling bangles. In May, nearly 30 people, mostly Afghan nationals, died, and 31 others sustained injuries in a suicide bombing at a Peshawar hotel popular with refugees. In June, militants in the border province of Bajaur beheaded an Afghan refugee suspected of spying for the United States. In August, North Waziristan militants beheaded another two refugees and shot a third for spying for the United States. In September, they shot a refugee they had abducted earlier. In November, unidentified gunmen in Para Chinar killed four Afghan refugees and injured five others as the group traveled to Afghanistan, intending to bury a fellow refugee who had died in a Peshawar camp.

Pakistan was not party to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol and had no legislation to recognize refugees. The 1946 Foreigners Act (amended 2000) continued to be the only standard applying to refugees and asylum seekers. However, Afghans who held new identity cards, issued during the registration exercise, were exempt from its provisions. In August, UNHCR and the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan extended the 2003 Tripartite Agreement for another three years, agreeing that repatriations should be "voluntary and gradual."

Detention/Access to Courts

In January, immigration officials arrested over 300 Afghans at Karachi airport, where they landed after Saudi Arabia had deported them for using forged passports to make pilgrimage. In February, authorities detained at least 22 refugees in connection with a suicide bombing at a Quetta court and arrested over 200 Afghans in a subsequent crackdown. In March, Quetta police detained 60 Afghans for not possessing valid documents and arrested 13 more for illegal entry. In total, they arrested over 100. In June, police in Khar arrested 39 persons, mostly Afghan refugees, in connection with a remote-controlled explosion that injured three persons. Also in June, authorities arrested 50 Afghans under the Foreigners Act for lack of documents. In November, police arrested some 500 Afghans for lack of documents. In December, the Frontier Corps arrested two residents of Ghadgai refugee camp for arms possession and Balochistan police arrested over 80 Afghans for illegal entry through Iran.

The Constitution granted the same protections against arbitrary arrest and detention to all persons in Pakistan.

Between October 2006 and February 2007, authorities issued 2.16 million Afghan refugees Proof of Registration (PoR) cards valid through December 2009. Refugees petitioned in court against the Ministry of Interior and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) that these organizations had failed to register hundreds of other Afghan applicants in Peshawar. On the other hand, tribal elders from the Mohmand tribal area demanded that NADRA rescind the computerized national identity cards it had issued the Hazarbuz, a nomadic tribe they accused of being Afghan refugees. The Potohar Town Council in Rawalpindi also accused Afghans of illegally obtaining such cards. In May, Balochistan officials alleged that most refugees there had also acquired them.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

In general, Afghan refugees enjoyed the freedom to move around Pakistan and to live where they chose, although the 1973 Constitution protected only Pakistani citizens' freedom of movement. Some 1.3 million lived in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), while several hundred thousand lived in Karachi.

Authorities scheduled the closure of four of the largest refugee camps, Jalozai and Katcha Garhi in the NWFP, and Jungle Pir Alizai and Jungle Pir Girdi in Balochistan by the end of the year and gave residents the choice of repatriating or moving to other sites, which the refugees rejected because of their remote and inhospitable location. Nearly 125,000 repatriated from Jalozai camp in the NWFP, but some refugees remained in Girdi camp in Balochistan despite the October evacuation deadline. After extending the deadline for Jungle Pir Alizai camp three times since 2005, in June, the Government assigned the Frontier Corps to supervise the camps' eviction. Some camp residents refused to leave, claiming Pakistani citizenship. Katcha Garhi camp closed in late July, with the departure of nearly 40,000 refugees. By September, Pakistan had closed down nine of the 24 camps in the NWFP and Federal Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

While the 1946 Foreigners Act prohibited the hiring of "a person who has no permission to stay in Pakistan," authorities tolerated refugees working in the informal sector. According to the 2005 census, only nine percent of Afghans reported having regular jobs, 55 percent of households depended on day labor for their livelihood, and 20 percent described themselves as self-employed. Some Ghazgai Minara camp residents worked as miners and farmhands, while others ran small businesses. Some refugees, like the residents of Khurasan camp, practiced traditional crafts such as carpet weaving. In Lahore, refugees worked mainly in the garbage collecting and recycling business. Around 83 percent of working Afghans earned less than Pakistan's minimum monthly wage level of 4,000 rupees ($67) for unskilled workers.

Because the contribution of refugee enterprise to the informal economy was significant, police crackdowns were rare. In June, however, the Cabinet approved a proposal to shut down informal markets owned by refugees and to register restaurants, shops, and vendors.

In formal trade, refugees needed Pakistani partners and could not hold immovable property or the requisite documents to own a business. In the NWFP, refugees dominated the transportation industry – Katcha Garhi camp was a major trading and transportation services center – but legally they could not own trucks. The market value of refugees' assets in the camp was about 740 million rupees (over $12 million). In July, the Minister for States and Frontier Region, Sardar Yar Mohammed Rind, threatened to confiscate the property of all "illegal Afghan immigrants ... as being foreigners they have no right to buy land." Authorities warned citizens against renting property to Afghans or purchasing property from them.

Public Relief and Education

UNHCR, in conjunction with the Government and the UN Development Programme, established Refugee Affected Hosting Areas, whereby refugee and local communities received health, sanitation, and education services. Recognized refugees living outside the camps received some financial assistance. To accelerate repatriation, the Government cut education and health facilities in the camps. UNHCR increased the repatriation allowance for registered refugees from $60 to $100 and extended the allowance to unregistered refugees after Pakistan contributed $5 million to the fund.

In Balochistan, Afghan refugees reported they could not buy subsidized flour like nationals.

Peshawar health authorities included refugees among the 1.5 million children under 13 whom they immunized against measles. Church World Service provided basic health services to over 57,000 Afghan refugees in three camps in the Mansehra district, NWFP.

UNHCR established schools in or near some camps and around 130,000 Afghan students attended Pakistan's 400 refugee schools, but nearly 71 percent reported no formal education. Afghan refugee children in Karachi attended Afghan language schools built in the early 1990s with Pakistani help. Muslim Hands, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), supported three schools in Quetta, where, to date, 45 Afghan schools served 25,000 students. The Government discouraged Afghans from enrolling in madrasas and began allowing refugee children to enroll in government schools. Refugees outside camps had access to health care through UNHCR's partners.

Pakistan did not include refugees in its 2004 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

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