Unregistered Afghan refugees face an uncertain future after the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) announced it will discontinue the repatriation program April 15, the same day that the Pakistani government had set as the deadline for all unregistered refugees to return home. Last year more than 2.15 million Afghan refugees received registration cards from the Pakistani government recognizing them as legally residing in Pakistan until December 2009. After this date, the Pakistani government says it will consider unregistered Afghans to be illegal immigrants, and that there will be no extension of the deadline.
Pakistan says hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees reside in Pakistani cities where they have businesses and perform manual labor, although no official figures exist. According to the UNHCR, more than 3 million Afghans have voluntarily repatriated from Pakistan since 2002, making it the largest such operation in the refugee agency’s history. The number includes more than 1.56 million in 2002; 343,074 in 2003; 383,598 in 2004; 449,520 in 2005; 133,015 last year and over 135,000 so far in 2007. (Ohmy News, April 15)