Extend Afghans’ legal residency status, HRW asks Pakistan
PESHAWAR (Pajhwok): A global rights group on Sunday asked the Pakistan government to extend Afghan refugees’ legal residency status for two years to curb abuse of their rights.
Last week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif extended registered Afghan refugees’ Proof of Residency (PoR) cards until June 30, 2016. The cards expired on December 31, 2015.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Sunday the uncertain status had encouraged police harassment, threats and extortion of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, particularly since the December 2014 attack on a Peshawar school.
The temporary extension represented a relief to the 1.5 million registered refugees, the watchdog acknowledged. However, it said the measure fell far short of the end-2017 date recommended by the Ministry for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON).
Phelim Kine, HRW’s deputy director for Asia, said: “Pakistan’s six-month residency extension reduces Afghan refugees’ insecurity, but the government also needs to stop police abuse of refugees.”
Since the Dec. 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar by the Pakistani Taliban, killing 145 people, the Afghans living in the country have experienced a sharp increase in hostility.
Subsequently, the group said, the fearful Afghans had restricted their movements, leading to economic hardship and curtailing access to education and employment.
Many of them have returned to Afghanistan, where they face a widening conflict and continuing insecurity, according to HRW. Worsening conditions in Afghanistan prompted more than 80,000 Afghans to leave their country in 2015 and seek asylum in Europe.
“Pakistan could reduce police abuses by extending residency cards for Afghan refugees,” Kine said. “This would also provide the government space to develop a long-term, rights-respecting solution for the Afghan refugees.”
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