After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 a large number of Afghan Refugees, which is recorded over 4.4 million, sought refuge in Pakistan. These refugees took refuge in different areas of KP and FATA. The CAR was established to facilitate these refugees on emergency basis in coordination with UNHCR. The refugee villages were established for the settlement of these refugees. Later on Education/CDU/ Health directorates were established to provide services in the concerned fields.

In the past the Government/UNHCR formulated the policies which were emphasized for the refugees residing in camps. After the discontinuation of assistance by the world community and closure of camps the refugees shifted to urban areas for their livelihood. There is no such mechanism for the management of urban refugees as this is the missing link in the refugee framework.   


The Commissionerate Afghan Refugees has already conducted population profiling survey in camps of KP in 2012 while the survey for urban refugees was partially conducted but abandon without any result. According to the estimated figures there are 1.6 Million registered and 1.0 Million unregistered Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan.

             Province-wise Population of Registered Afghan Refugees





Outside Camp






































The estimated figure of 1.6 Million registered Afghan Refugees shows that 0.491 Million are residing in camps and 0.505 Million are residing outside camps in KP. The Commissionerate Afghan Refugees are only managing refugees at camp level while the refugees living in scattered areas of KP has no clear policy and management mechanism.

In order to address the issue of urban refugees there is a need for a clear urban refugee policy and management mechanism. In the current security situation it is need of the hour to streamline the profiling of urban refugee population which will be helpful in developing strategic plans. The profiling exercise would include data on demographic, protection issues, infrastructure, Health, Education and socio-economic conditions of registered urban refugees as well as un-registered urban refugees. The MIS Database will be helpful in tracking the urban refugees in KP for which a comprehensive mechanism would be sort out. The profiling would also focus on the issues pertaining to education especially female education and would highlight dropout and would discourage child labor.  The UROC will help to promote and accelerate voluntary repatriation.


  • Devise clear policy regarding Urban Refugees.
  • Establishment of UROCs at Head Quarter and District level.
  • Professionalism as a merit in recruiting staff and utilization of existing staff
  • Involvement/coordination with local administration/
  • Protection/legal/referral system to be introduced
  • MIS Database
  • Training for staff


Held on: 27th November, 2015

Venue: CAR, Peshawar

A workshop was held on 27th November, 2015 at CAR, Peshawar on “Urban Refugees Strategy”. The purpose of the workshop was to sort out a comprehensive policy for the management of Afghan Refugees residing outside camps in Pakistan. The workshop was attended by representatives from CCAR, UNHCR and representatives from all Provincial Commissionerates. The list of participants is attached.

The workshop started with the recitation of verses from the Holy Qur`an. The Chief Commissioner Afghan Refugees Islamabad, Dr. Imran Zeb chaired the workshop. In the opening remarks, chair highlighted the issues related to Afghan Refugees in Pakistan. He further stressed on the need of a comprehensive strategy/policy for the management of urban refugees. The CCAR was of the view that all the Provincial Commissioners are working in different situations and the dynamics of each province are different, therefore, the Urban Policy may be formulated in such a way which is suitable for every Provincial Commissionerate. He further advised that one policy should be brought forward under the umbrella of Urban Refugees Strategy keeping in view the cultural, socio-economic and geographical factors of each province. The policy shall be framed in such a way which can cover every aspect and shall be suitable for all provinces as per their dynamics.

The UNHCR representative Mr. Indrika Ratwatte was of the opinion that vocational trainings should be imparted to these AR which will act as a pull factor for their repatriation. After having these skills they would either go back to their native towns or start their own businesses or else they can also further enhance their skills by working in the host areas. He further said that UNHCR will support any initiative taken for the facilitation of urban refugees in Pakistan.  

The Commissioner Afghan Refugees KP, Mr. Muhammad Abbas Khan presented a complete picture of the problems regarding Urban Refugees and stressed on the need to effectively respond to challenges faced by Urban Refugees. The CAR discussed that the number of Afghan Refugees living in urban areas is increasing every year and in the absence of an effective policy intervention, their management remains a challenge, with broader implications.

The CAR gives a detailed briefing on the Afghan situation in Pakistan regarding their Socio-Economic conditions, education, Health, Livelihood, Protection and other issues faced by Urban Refugees.  He further elaborated that the issues faced by the urban refugees could only be solved after having a complete population data and having an urban refugee policy.

The CAR Special emphasis was on urban Afghan youth, women, children and perception about the afghan refugees. He laid emphasis on the development of youth, children and women, who are the ultimate future and who will play the major role in the development of Afghanistan after repatriation.

He said that there is a wrong perception in the local community about AR residing in Pakistan. A perception has been created that the AR are sharing the available scarce resources and hence creating more problems for the host population. The CAR was of the view that the expertise of the AR could be utilized to help strengthen the country’s economy by contributing in businesses and through remittances.  This mind frame/wrong perception of people has to be changed through media campaigns, social media, distributing brochures/leaflets and by organizing joint-cultural/sports events.

The education and skill development was focused by the CAR as the most durable solution for AR.

Mrs. Jeanette Zuefle, UNHCR Assistant Representative (Protection) gave a general background about the AR residing in urban areas. She said that most of the views are already highlighted by CAR, KP which in her views are common. She also shed some light on the cultural, ethnic, religious and lingual commonalities between the refugees and the host communities and said that these factors are the foundation for the peaceful co-existence of AR in Pakistan.

She further elaborated on the challenges faced by the AR after the implementation of the National Action Plan which resulted in increased level of protection issues. Moreover she also discussed the problems faced by AR in operating their business, opening of bank accounts, lack of alternatives, exploitation, child labor, forced/early marriages, early dropouts and other issues.

Furthermore she also explained to involve these refugees in the government, plans, policies and to also empower them by building their capacities on available resources to avoid their dependency.

The Provincial Commissioner Punjab during the discussion shared his point of view that the Government of Punjab is already working for the Urban Refugees. He said that the Govt. of Punjab is very cooperative in all the issues regarding the AR residing in urban as well as rural areas of Punjab. He also said that they have completed the Population Profiling of AR in Punjab and have a database developed with the help of Punjab Government. He further elaborated that the Govt. of Punjab has clear directives that they will not support any move where the ARs get any impression of their stay being prolonged.

To this the CAR, KP replied that the population profiling is not meant for any impression regarding their delayed stay in Pakistan, rather it is meant to collect the exact data of AR in Pakistan. Furthermore, the CAR, KP said that without a comprehensive data, it is impossible to formulate future policies/strategies for ARs in Pakistan.

The representative from UNCHR sub-office Peshawar Mr. Bashir Ahmad was of the view that the CAR has already got a vast network of field offices throughout the province. He elaborated that instead of establishing a separate unit for the Urban Refugees, the TOR’s of the existing staff should be redefined. He said that besides working in camps the existing DA’s and other staff shall be engaged in urban areas for facilitation of AR’s.

To this proposal by Mr. Bashir, the CCAR responded that there is no need to change the TOR’S of the employees but instead we will have to setup separate units for the urban refugees in all the provincial Commissionerates and CCAR.




After a detailed discussion all the participants agreed for the need to formulate an urban refugee policy and it was concluded that all the Provincial Commissioners should design a combined policy for the urban refugees that fulfils the requirements as per their dynamics. It was concluded that the urban policy shall be formulated in such a way that can cover all the cultural, socio-economic and geographical factors of each province. It was decided that the Provincial Commissioners will coordinate and finalize the outline of the policy within three weeks and will be submitted to the CCAR Islamabad for further deliberations.  

About CAR

Commissionerate Afghan Refugees was established in 1979 under the Federal Government Orders to facilitate the Afghan Refugees who were crossing the borders and coming into Pakistan to find refuge due to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

There is a Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR) in each Province of the country and having the Chief Commissionerate (CCAR) based in Islamabad. All the Commissionerates and the Chief Commissioner work under the Ministry of SAFRON, Islamabad.

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