Opinion

UNHCR clarifies asylum process for Iraqi refugees in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees on Thursday said the Iraqi asylum seekers in Pakistan need to prove they have a well-founded fear of individual persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Clarifying its position with regard to a host of reports and queries about the long wait of the Iraqi refugees for resettlement to a third country, the UN refugee agency said: “Traditionally, Iraqis who apply for asylum in Pakistan are assessed by UNHCR under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 Protocol. In order to be recognized as a refugee, they need to prove they have a well-founded fear of individual persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

”In 2006, due to the deteriorating situation in parts of Iraq, UNHCR announced that asylum seekers from Southern and Central Iraq are generally considered to be in need of international protection,” the agency said in a press release. “In case they do not meet the criteria mentioned above, they should be considered as refugees under UNHCR’s mandate by application of the extended refugee definition, owing to a situation of generalized violence in their country of origin.” As a result, Iraqis in Pakistan whose asylum cases were rejected before, now have the right to ask UNHCR to re-open and re-examine their cases under the broader mandate. If recognized as refugees, they will be given a UNHCR card, and needy individuals can apply for social assistance.

However, Iraqis recognized as refugees under the broader mandate do not qualify for resettlement to a third country. Resettlement countries will only accept refugees recognized under the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol. ”UNHCR’s role in the resettlement process is to submit serious protection cases of recognized refugees to resettlement countries for consideration. Ultimately, it is up to the resettlement countries – which number 16 worldwide – to decide whether or not to accept a submitted case.” Resettlement is one of three durable solutions UNHCR is seeking for some 10 million refugees worldwide. Due to the limited number of places available, resettlement is seen as the last resort when the other two solutions – voluntary repatriation and local integration – are not possible, the news release said.-SANA

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Rubab Saleem

Rubab Saleem is Editor of Pakistan Times

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