* Disputes last year’s census figure of 136,000 as it only counts those who voluntarily registered
* Says Afghans should be registered to receive legal status * An estimated 300 are registering each day
By Razzak Abro
More than half a million Afghan refugees are settled in Sindh with a majority of them in Karachi as opposed to 136,000, an figure reached after last year’s census, said a local leader Tuesday. The federal government started registering Afghans from October 15 throughout the country and announced that only Afghans enrolled during last year’s census would be provided official identification. The Afghan leader, Haji Abdullah Bukhari, said, however, that the government should register their entire population instead of those enrolled during the Afghan census conducted last year. The government had conducted a voluntary census in collaboration with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in which some 136,000 Afghans registered. This meant that only they would be provided temporary residential cards, but Afghan leaders said that this was not the actual figure and their entire population should be provided official identification. Bukhari welcomed the government’s decision to register Afghans, saying that it would provide his community legal status. However, he said that the registration should not be restricted to those counted in last year’s census. According to him, their actual numbers in the province are closer to half a million. He said that some 300 to 400 Afghans have been registering daily since October 15. A team assigned with the registration task would visit Al-Asif Square on Wednesday (today). The census last year had revealed that some 136,000 Afghan refugees were settled in the province, with majority of them living in Karachi. But this figure reflected on those Afghans who registered voluntarily as refugees. The census in the city was started on February 23 and lasted till the end of March. Earlier, the localities and residential areas of the Afghan refugees were registered in the first phase. It was revealed that refugees were settled in 118 union councils of the city out of a total of 178. According to the official figures issued by the Sindh Government about 3 million aliens were settled in the province out of them some 516,000 were Afghans. These figures came to light at an official meeting held on May 2, 2003 presided over by the then chief minister Sardar Ali Muhammad Maher. Then chief secretary K.B Rind had briefed the meeting.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006