Category: Pishin

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.

Livelihoods – Summary

The overarching issues facing refugees in Pakistan are the difficulties in accessing formal jobs due to the limited rights associated with the PoR cards and the absence of a process for requesting work permits. There is also a lack of awareness of the PoR cards in the local business community. Additionally, many refugees are stuck as daily labourers as they do not have time to learn new skills. Lastly, refugees are normally not eligible for courses run by government institutions that offer opportunities for individuals to develop specific technical skills.

Nevertheless, there is great interest amongst refugees, including female refugees, for livelihoods trainings on topics as diverse as marketing, bricklaying, embroidery and finishing techniques in dress making.

While some of the specific trainings noted in each district help improve the livelihoods of Afghan refugees, three more strategic steps that would positively impact on the livelihoods of Afghan refugees in Pakistan are as follows:

  1. Advocacy by UNHCR on the provision of official work permits for refugees.
  2. Refugees become eligible for enrolment in government vocational training institutes.
  3. Development of linkages between skilled Afghan youth and potential employers.

Protection – Overarching

Five crosscutting social protection issues have been identified in all districts and are highlighted here.

Firstly, many refugee children are sent to work by their parents who are often forced into this situation due to extreme poverty. Even those children that do attend school during the day often still have to work in the evening / at night. The parents are generally unaware of the hazards and protection risks child labour presents. Greater advocacy both at national policy level and within communities raising awareness about these risks is required.

Secondly, the identification of child protection, domestic violence, early and forced marriages and SGBV issues are severely constrained by the cultural norms within the Afghan refugee and host communities. As a result these issues are substantially underreported. Advocacy within communities raising awareness about basic human rights is required.

Particularly in relation to SGBV incidents, due to cultural / societal taboos, many refugee SGBV survivors are themselves unwilling or unable to seek external help. Often if they do, they are stigmatised within the community. Furthermore, refugee women often do not perceive violence as an offense against them or a violation of their rights. Rather these acts are often considered by refugee women as a practice to be endured. The promotion of women’s rights within these communities is a clear priority. While most Afghans are not willing to discuss such sensitive topics openly, a way needs to be found to effectively raise awareness of SGBV and women’s health services within the Afghan community.

Thirdly, most communities neglect to include women and children in decision making processes. Greater participation of these two groups would help refugees to build stronger, more inclusive communities. Unfortunately, it has been reported that even the organisations providing these services often lack awareness on the importance of equal opportunities for women, which is reflected in these organisations employing more men than women. General protection oriented trainings are required by partner organisations.

Fourthly, a discriminatory attitude by services providers towards non-Pakistanis attempting to avail their services has been reported in a number of districts. General protection oriented trainings for these service providers would help improve the impartiality and neutrality of these services.

Lastly, discrimination because of disabilities is very prevalent and mental health issues in particular are often not diagnosed. Again, advocacy on these issues within refugee communities is direly needed.

Security – Quetta / Balochistan summary

The government of Balochistan has no specific refugee related security policies for refugees in urban settlements. The security protocols are the same as for Pakistani citizens.

Due to the frequent security incidents in Quetta, there are 21 police stations in Quetta city, compared with just one each in Chaman, Dalbandin, Killa Saifullah, Muslim Bagh, Loralai and Pishin districts. The police stations are responsible for maintaining order within the respective cities / town limits.

Although a traditional watchmen system exists in the local communities, it is not practised strictly in either Pakistani or Afghan communities. The security situation in Quetta in particular would benefit from the creation of a coherent and organised security structure.