Pakistan has started the verification and collection of biometric data from Afghan refugees, in a move that is seen as tightening the scrutiny of the refugees living in the country for decades.
The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is collecting the data including skills and education from 1.4 million Afghan refugees who were registered and issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards in 2007.
The data verification exercise is taking place after 10 years and is likely to be completed by April 2022.
“This is the first time that the refugees are being issued smart cards,” Babar Malik, spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Wednesday.
According to the government, over 3 million Afghan refugees are living in the country and more than the half are undocumented.
Pakistan hosts one of the world’s largest Afghan refugee communities, who fled after their country was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979 or during later conflicts.
The country says it lacks the capacity to accommodate more refugees.
Earlier this month, Pakistani authorities deported hundreds of Afghans who crossed into the country via land routes after Taliban forces took Kabul.
Pakistan has announced the expulsion of Afghan refugees several times in the past, but these decisions were never carried out and deadlines have been extended.
In 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced citizenship for Afghan refugees who were born and raised in Pakistan. However, there has been no further development, according to officials.