The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is moving forward with a large-scale refugee registration drive in Pakistan. The Documentation Renewal and Information Verification Exercise (DRIVE) is being carried out in collaboration with Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and its Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR).
The three organizations are hoping to bring Pakistan’s refugee records up to date, and make it easier for Afghan refugees to access humanitarian services in the country. Pakistan is currently home to more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, and as many as 1.5 million unregistered ones. However, the last registration drive occurred all the way back in 2007.
The new drive was formally announced in April, but progress has been slow due to the influx of new refugees after the Taliban seized Afghanistan over the summer. The project has picked up in September, and should be completed by April of 2022. NADRA has already updated 500,000 refugee files and issued 100,000 new biometric Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
At the moment, Pakistan is only issuing new cards to the 1.4 million people who registered back in 2007. The country does not have legislation that guarantees a right to asylum, and it has already deported several hundred Afghans who attempted to enter the country in the summer.
The authorities will be collecting additional biometric and biographic information from the Afghan refugees who are participating in the campaign. The biometric data will be stored on the smart PoR cards, which will be recognized as valid proof of identity and are compatible with Pakistan’s national authentication and identity verification systems. The new PoR cards will make it easier for refugees to access services like healthcare and education, and will expire in June of 2023.
The biographic information, meanwhile, will include details about each refugee’s skills and educational background, as well as their socioeconomic status. The drive is being conducted at 35 sites and four mobile units in Pakistan, staffed with more than 600 employees of the UNHCR and the Pakistani government.
The UNHCR has insisted that biometric registration should be an essential component of refugee relief programs moving forward. The organization has already registered hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and has used iris biometrics to register refugees who are leaving Syria.
September 29, 2021 – by Eric Weiss