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More than 250,000 Afghans trickled into Pakistan since January 2021; only 850 returned: UNHCR

Pakistan is facing new inflows of asylum seekers from neighboring Afghanistan, following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, according to the UN refugee agency.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the eve of the World Refugees Day, observed June 20 every year, Qaiser Khan Afridi, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Pakistan, said more than 250,000 Afghans seeking asylum have trickled into Pakistan since January 2021.

“UNHCR is aware that over 250,000 Afghans seeking asylum are reported to have arrived in Pakistan since January 2021, however, the overall number of Afghans with international protection needs is likely to be higher,” said Afridi.

“We are currently discussing with the government of Pakistan the way forward on registration and documentation of asylum-seekers, predominantly from Afghanistan,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled to Pakistan and Iran since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban last August.

Many, who worked or associated with the previous regime, left the country, even before the capture of Kabul fearing a backlash from the hard line group, with others finding it an opportunity to emigrate to the US or Europe.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported earlier this week that many top officials in the US-backed previous Afghan government had started purchasing expensive properties in the US and other countries in the final years of the war, which ended in an unexpected surrender of the Afghan National Army.

Last week, the federal cabinet approved a policy under which, transit visas will be issued to the Afghan asylum seekers to enter the country legally to complete paperwork for further international travel.

Much expectedly, there has been no increase in the number of Afghan refugees returning to their homeland after the Taliban’s takeover, said the UNHCR.

Afridi said only 850 refugees (185 families) have returned to the war-torn country since the beginning of 2022 under the commission’s voluntary repatriation program.

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