Key Issues of Interest
Nine Advice and Legal Aid Centres (ALAC) are operational in the main refugee hosting areas of Pakistan’s four provinces and provide free legal support to persons of concern (PoCs). Eight of these centers are run by UNHCR’s partner, SHARP, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), while one is run by SEHER in Balochistan, another UNHCR’s partner.
In August 2020, UNHCR and its partners provided legal assistance to a total of 1,831 PoCs. During the month, UNHCR and its partners intervened at police stations for 81 arrested/detained PoCs and secured the release of all. In the majority of the cases, UNHCR and its partners managed to obtain the release of the arrested PoCs before they were formally charged by the law enforcement agencies. Most of them were released within 24 hours. In addition, ALAC partners represented 2 PoCs in courts who had been charged under the Foreigners Act (dealing with unauthorized stay of foreigners) and other preventive laws (allowing preventive detention of person acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, security and defense of the country and public order) subsequently resulting in their release by the orders of the courts.
ALAC teams and the Ministry of SAFRON continue to take proactive steps to mitigate the risk of detention, including enhanced advocacy, pre-emptively intervening at police stations to prevent arrests and enhancing the response capacity of partners. UNHCR has developed and disseminated additional awareness raising material on legal assistance programs available for PoCs (including ALAC posters, brochures & use of social media).
When compared with August 2019 (54 Ind), there has been a increase of 54% in arrest and detention in August 2020 (83 Ind). It is deemed that the substantial increase in the number of arrests and detention is linked with the expiry of the PoR cards. UNHCR highly appreciates Pakistan’s generosity towards refugees and welcomes Government of Pakistan's (GoP) decision on consistent extension of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards until now. The validity of the last extension was until 30 June 2020. UNHCR hopes that the cards will be extended beyond June 2020. In the meantime, it will continue to disseminate the interim Government notification on non-harassment of the PoCs notification/s among the law enforcement agencies and refugee communities through UNHCR staff and its partner organizations.