Community Structures – Peshawar

Three refugee committees have been established, focussed specifically on urban refugees.

The committee members in each team were provided trainings, skills and information on UNHCR mandate, its protection and assistance for the persons of concern. Communal locations like Hujras or Schools are utilized in the Urban setting, but the tense security situation and the imposition of administrative orders seriously undermines these committees planned activities.

In addition, these committees effectiveness could be additionally improved with better coordination with the administrative and security counterparts within government. Greater engagement with government could provide the necessary legal framework for the functioning of the established refugee communal structures.

The key issues in Peshawar are land ownership and rental agreements and the relatively high cost of living in urban areas coupled with limited external assistance from government or the international humanitarian community.

After the tragic 16 December 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, the government and host population attitudes to Afghan refugees has hardened. This has resulted in a significant increase in 2015 of raids of locations in which Afghan refugees reside, resulting in elevated numbers of arrests, detentions and deportations. Financial extortion by the host population is also reported to be on the increase.

In Peshawar, Advice and Legal Aid Centres (ALAC), media campaigns and frequent meetings with the authorities on all levels are underway to find an amicable solution to the heightened tensions. In addition, the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programe initiatives continue to be designed to promote peaceful coexistence.

The refugee community at large is aware of all the activities and services available. The most effective communication channels continue to be outreach visits and helpline services.

Further formalising and empowering the refugee committees would help to resolve the issues noted above as well as greater outreach by UNHCR and partner organisations.