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Around 600,000 Afghan Refugees expected to be displaced from Pakistan

afghan-refugee-figureDespite the unstable situation in Afghanistan, almost 600,000 refugees in Pakistan are expected to return to their country of origin by March 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, extended the stay of Afghan refugees in his country by three months after a previously issued deadline. Accordingly, the number of registration card holders leaving Pakistan has risen in the past three months from 1,250 in June to 67,057.

Pakistan gave shelter to hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees since the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Approximately 2.5 million legal and undocumented Afghan refugees are currently living in Pakistan. At first, its policy welcomed refugees and allowed them to mingle with the local population. The proximity between the two countries facilitated a common Islamic identity. This tendency changed when Pakistan started to support militant groups with links to Taliban. In addition, many Pakistanis regard the refugees as a source of crime, unemployment and militancy highly; facts that contributed to the new refugee policy.

It is not the first time Pakistan issued a deadline for the refugees to leave. However, previous deadlines were not enforced due to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) request that any repatriation must be voluntary. However, in June 2016, Pakistan closed the main Afghan-Pakistan border crossing in Torkham, restricting the Afghans transition without travel documents. While Afghanistan remains a country in turmoil, a humanitarian crisis is being inevitable.