Pakistan Extends Stay of Registered Afghan Refugees Amid Suspension of Repatriation

Pakistan extends the stay of 1.45 million registered Afghan refugees until June 2025. This move comes as the country halts the repatriation of undocumented Afghans.
Pakistan Extends Stay of Registered Afghan Refugees Amid Suspension of Repatriation

Pakistan has decided to grant a one-year extension to the stay of registered Afghan refugees, addressing their fears of being forced back to Afghanistan. The decision, announced on Wednesday, ensures that the validity of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards for 1.45 million Afghan refugees is extended until June 30, 2025. These PoR cards had expired on June 30, 2024.


The caretaker government had previously announced the repatriation of all illegal foreigners last October, citing security concerns. This decision was widely perceived as targeting Afghan refugees, a claim that officials denied. The repatriation of undocumented Afghans began on November 1, 2023, with officials reporting that up to 500,000 have since returned to Afghanistan. It was estimated that nearly 1.7 million illegal Afghans were residing in Pakistan, many of whom had lived in the country for four decades.


Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif presided over the federal cabinet meeting where the extension was approved. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the extension, stating: "The federal cabinet approved one-year extension of the validity of PoR (Proof of Registration) cards of 1.45 million Afghan refugees."


According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan still hosts approximately 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees. In addition to those with PoR cards, over 800,000 Afghans possess Afghan citizenship cards.


UNHCR spokesman Qaisar Khan Afridi highlighted that a significant number of PoR cardholders are distributed across various provinces: 52% in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 315,000 in Balochistan, around 1,950,000 in Punjab, 75,000 in Sindh, 40,000 in Islamabad, and some in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.


The decision to extend the PoR cards’ validity comes amid reports of Pakistan halting the repatriation of Afghans without legal documentation. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, during his recent visit to Pakistan, confirmed the suspension of the repatriation plan and expressed his gratitude for the country’s ongoing hospitality towards Afghan refugees. Grandi urged Pakistan to continue its proud tradition of offering protection to those in need.