Category: Legal Assistance

Legal Assistance – KP Summary

Critical gaps in the provision of legal assistance in KP are the absence of key legal entitlements associated with PoR cards, a lack of clear policy and the absence of a mechanism for the management of urban refugee population. There are also legal obstacles for Afghan refugees to present surety bonds in the courts.

Sensitisation of the local authorities, law enforcement agencies and general population is required on refugees’ rights.

It is reported by refugees that the newly established dispute resolution councils operating in each police station are not working effectively, possibly as they are only staffed by Pakistanis. In general, there is a lack of refugee friendly policing initiatives in KP.

There is need to develop more interaction and coordination between urban refugees and host communities. Raising awareness in the urban refugee communities about the legal services that are provided in their area could well help.

New provincial laws regulating rental agreements for rented accommodation does not include provision for the PoR cardholders, disadvantaging them.

Legal assistance – Karachi

Legal assistance is provided by SHARP, with support from refugee elders for local issues.

The refugee communities are scattered throughout the city and would benefit from greater outreach by UNHCR.

Special training sessions should be arranged for the judiciary in particular, in areas where arrests and detentions are highest in number.

Developing protection committees that would include local police and refugee community elders would help to reduce the incidence of often unnecessary arrests in the city.

Legal assistance – Peshawar

Legal assistance is provided by SACH via three satellite units in Peshawar city. The lawyers provide free assistance to the cases identified under the section 14 Foreigners act or the 55/109 act. Typically, these cases are identified through calls received on UNHCR’s protection helpline.

The RAHA programme in Peshawar has included several advocacy events as well as mass information dissemination to better support interaction between Afghans and their host communities.

Community based mechanisms vis-a-vis legal assistance is non-existent, primarily due to scattered nature of the refugee population in Peshawar, with the two nationalities often living alongside one another. Nevertheless, in a few locations of the city, refugees do tend to live in more homogenous groups, and in these areas the traditional Jirga mechanism is in place for internal conflict resolution.

Legal assistance – Quetta / Balochistan

SEHER and CRS operate two ILAC (Information and Legal Aid Centres) in urban Quetta since mid 2010. Similar projects have existed since 2002.

The legal assistance provided includes representation in court for foreigners act cases, legal information to PoR card holders, awareness on the rights and obligations of refugees through outreach activities by community mobilizers. It also includes holding meetings with the refugee community and sensitizing them on issues related to PoR card renewal and modification and registering the births of their children.

SEHER also conducts training for law enforcement authorities including visits to prison and police stations and FIA detention centres for meeting and interviewing both PoR and non-PoR card holders and to identity if any the detainees have asylum claims for onwards referral to UNHCR.

Other activities include a monthly radio programmes in which various legal issues affecting Afghans are highlighted, particularly relating to the PoR cards and services and refugees’ stay in the country of asylum.

Community based Jirga mechanisms and traditional resolution of grievances are available in the community. These also include local mullahs and elders who mediate and resolve issues arising in the community such as family grievances, dissolution of marriages, custody of minors by parents, and more general community issues. Refugee communities do CRS and SEHER roles as mediator. SEHER also maintains a network of community volunteers who raise any legal issues arising in the community with SEHER.

In Quetta, there is a surprising lack of awareness among the law enforcement agencies and relevant government stakeholders regarding the PoR cards (Proof of Registration identity cards) and refugees’ rights more generally.

Legal assistance – AJK, Islamabad and Punjab

The PoR card lacks certain important legal entitlements including the ability for the bearer to open bank accounts, apply for a driving licence, or seek admission at universities. The policy on Hajj for Afghan refugees is also opaque. Greater advocacy with ministries of law, justice and human rights is required to facilitate Afghan PoR card holders to exercise their legal rights in their country of asylum.

Host communities are not aware of refugees’ rights in their country of asylum, often resulting in xenophobia. This could be addressed, at least in part, through mass awareness raising campaigns.

In AJK, Islamabad and Punjab, there is a surprising lack of awareness among the law enforcement agencies and relevant government stakeholders regarding the PoR cards (Proof of Registration identity cards) and refugees’ rights more generally.

Lastly, Afghan refugees need to be able to earn a living given the often protracted nature of their displacement from Afghanistan which will require extensive advocacy with Government of Pakistan and detailed liaison with ILO.