Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2017, 07:37 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Pakistan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2005
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Pakistan , 20 June 2005, available at: [accessed 20 November 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/Asylum  In June, more than 25,000 refugees repatriated to the southeastern provinces of Afghanistan when Pakistan announced it would no longer guarantee their safety in camps located near conflict-ridden Waziristan. Pakistan arrested and deported more than 50 Afghan refugee seminary students in August – allegedly in response to U.S. pressure to eliminate centers supporting radical militant groups. Hundreds of thousands, however, returned to Afghanistan voluntarily. Newspapers also reported the deportation of nearly 40 Iraqi refugees detained for years on charges of illegal entry. In February, soldiers shot and killed six Afghan refugees as their van approached a checkpoint in the restricted Federally Administered Tribal Areas near the Afghan border.

The Foreigners Act of 1946, which provided for the arrest and detention of undocumented aliens, made no exceptions for refugees. The separate Foreigners Order of 1951 allowed border officials to refuse entry to undocumented foreigners, including would-be refugees. Since 1979, however, Pakistan had provided temporary protection to millions of Afghans as prima facie refugees.

Detention  There were reportedly hundreds of refugees languishing in Pakistani jails, and authorities reportedly arrested nearly 800 Afghan refugees from camps and urban areas. In April, authorities released dozens of detainees arrested in antiterrorist operations, including some 20 Afghan refugees who had been in Pakistan for 20 years. As a goodwill gesture coinciding with the Afghan prime minister's July visit to Kabul, Pakistan released 149 imprisoned refugees.

The Foreigners Act and the Foreigners Order allowed for the arrest and detention of undocumented aliens. In cases of refugee detention, the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions intervened for their release. Still, newspapers in Pakistan regularly reported the arrests of undocumented refugees – most of them Afghans.

Right to Earn a Livelihood  The 1946 Foreigners Act prohibited employers from hiring "a person who has no permission to stay in Pakistan." Nevertheless, Pakistan often tolerated refugees' economic activities, although Taliban sympathizers harassed refugee women for working for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Refugees who worked illegally – mostly as manual laborers or domestic help – did so for substantially lower wages than Pakistani workers. Others worked as garbage collectors and thousands worked in kilns making bricks, including children working to pay their parents' debts.

Many Afghan refugees operated small shops or drove trucks. Since only citizens could own property or have legal documents such as titles, refugees often had to pay Pakistani citizens to hold titles to trucks or business licenses. Rigorous police crackdowns were rare, given the refugees' significant contributions to the informal economy – especially in the trucking and carpet-weaving industries.

Pakistan granted refugees recognized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the right to work in 2003, but excluded Afghans.

Freedom of Movement and Residence  The Foreigners Order allowed civil authorities to restrict the movement and residence of foreigners in Pakistan. Many Afghan men left camps, particularly those located far from cities, to seek work. Officials occasionally harassed them for illegal movement under the Foreigners Act, which deterred others from leaving the camps.

In the past, camp-based Afghan refugees had received "Refugee Passes" – valid for registration and some material assistance – through the Government's Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees. In 2004, however, the Government did not issue any. UNHCR issued "To Whom It May Concern" letters to asylum seekers and renewable cards to recognized refugees, but these documents had no legal standing and afforded no protection from arrest.

No legal impediments stopped Afghan refugees from going to court in Pakistan, and some sued Pakistani landlords for withholding deposits and litigated other civil matters. Overall corruption, however, made the courts largely ineffective even for ordinary Pakistanis.

Public Relief and Education  Despite having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Pakistan did not allow refugee children to enroll in public schools. Outside of the camps, refugees had to pay for education. Inside many camps, NGOs provided primary education to about 170,000 children.

International organizations provided healthcare in more than 100 camps, employing some 5,000 health workers. In November, Save the Children temporarily closed its health clinics in Girdi Jungle camp when refugees reportedly attacked them after they found desecrated Korans nearby.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  During March, Pakistan carried out a two-week military offensive to apprehend some 500 foreign militants believed to be hiding in the South Waziristan region. This caused at least 12,000 people to flee to neighboring areas to seek refuge with relatives, although some reports put the figure at 30,000 civilians. The operation also destroyed orchards and left livestock to starve. Amnesty International reported that civilians of one village received only three hours notice to vacate their homes, causing many to leave their belongings behind – including identity documents. Pakistan prohibited all humanitarian assistance to the displaced and denied media reports of food shortages and other humanitarian needs. Hundreds of people, including women and children, set up camps on the outskirts of villages. UNHCR maintained that their assistance was the responsibility of the Pakistani Government.

Some 24,000 persons originally displaced from the Indian side resided in camps in the Pakistani-controlled side where officials issued them refugee cards. Due to the unresolved dispute, however, it was not clear whether they had crossed an international border, a prerequisite for status as refugees. More than 1,650 persons displaced by ongoing violence lived in four camps with no documentation.

The conflict and the harsh terrain restricted humanitarian and monitoring access to the region. Authorities discouraged assistance to IDPs because they wanted them to return to strategically important areas evacuated in the course of military operations. Landmines and the general lack of aid, however, hindered return. Encouraged by the late-2003 cease-fire, about 8,000 IDPs based in the Northern Areas – displaced during the India-Pakistan standoff begun in 2002 – did start to return, with ICRC aiding 500 returning families.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

Search Refworld