Key Issues of Interest
Nine Advice and Legal Aid Centres (ALAC) are operational in the main refugeehosting 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 January 2020, UNHCR and its partners provided legal assistance to a total of 1,569 PoCs. During the month, UNHCR and its partners intervened at police stations for 49 arrested/detained PoCs and secured 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 were released within 24 hours. In addition, ALAC partners represented 7 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 January 2019 (77 Ind), there has been a significant decrease of 23% in arrest and detention in January 2020 (59 Ind). UNHCR welcomes Government of Pakistan's (GoP) decision on extension of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards until 30 June 2020 and will continue to disseminate the renewed PoR cards extension notification among refugee communities, law enforcement agencies through UNHCR staff and its partner organizations