Analysis by location

Just under one million (958,820) refugees, 63% of the total 1,517,474 (as of 31 January 2015), live outside of refugee villages, primarily in urban locations in four provinces (KP, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh) and Islamabad Capital Territory. Locations with the largest urban populations (>10,000 refugees) are concentrated in just twelve locations (with 80% of all urban refugees; to note that unregistered Afghans are also most commonly located in these areas). These twelve locations and other significant refugee populations are summarised below:

AJK – Mirpur

2,446 urban refugees

  • In early 2015, incidents of police harassment of Afghan refugees increased significantly, often resulting in their arrest and detention. Nevertheless, the relationship between the refugee and the host community remains generally friendly.
  • Most Afghans residing in city are normally able to find employment, particularly in the textiles business, small shops, scrap dealers or running restaurants.
  • Afghan refugees face difficulties enrolling their children in the 9th and 10th grades, for the board exams, as additional documentation is often required (“form-b”) which most refugees do not possess.
  • Afghans refugees admitted to public hospitals normally have to pay for the same services that are free for the host community.
  • The available child protection, SGBV services, referral mechanisms and facilities for people with specific needs are extremely limited. No sustainable community support mechanisms are in place.
  • In many areas of Mirpur in which Afghans resided, there are no effective sanitation systems.

Balochistan – Quetta

155,623 urban refugees

  • Quetta has over two million inhabitants, of which almost 8% are Afghan. Quetta hosts many more Shia Afghan refugees than in other areas of the country. Tensions exist between the Shia (refugees and Pakistani) and Sunni communities which regularly erupt in violent actions.
  • Nevertheless, the relationship with the host community is generally good although competition for jobs creates further tensions (Quetta hosts the second largest urban refugee population in Pakistan).
  • Formal structures for community participation exist and a Jirga system is active. There are several child and women friendly spaces in the community, though given the number of refugees in Quetta, these projects are always oversubscribed.
  • Access to education services is often hampered by a lack of documentation (e.g. birth certificates) and economic pressures within some refugee families that force parents to send their children out to earn money doing odd jobs. Girls, some as young as 9, are denied access to schools by their parents for cultural reasons. Many of the schools are dilapidated and increasingly overcrowded.
  • Afghans constitute 50% of the total case load in all hospitals in Quetta. It is thought that many Afghans living in Afghanistan visit Quetta for health treatments as the quality of the hospitals in Quetta are significantly better than hospitals in neighbouring regions of Afghanistan.
  • Water is in short supply in Quetta, and most is supplied by tankers or donkey carts. The supplied water is of poor quality and needs boiling before it can safely be consumed. However, many refugee households do not prepare the water correctly increasing the risk of exposure to water borne diseases, especially in children.
  • There are many self-constructed pit latrines which are generally not well designed and have been known to cause unsanitary conditions.

Islamabad

33,524 urban refugees

  • In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the relationship with the host community remains tense. While some refugee communities are well organised with an active Jirga system, others lack community structures.
  • Afghan students often struggle to gain admission to government education facilities, particularly for the 9th and 10th grades when students normally study for the board exams. Only one Afghan school is operational, which is overcrowded and has inadequate facilities.
  • Refugees can generally access public or private hospitals directly without prejudice, although have reported delayed or sub-standard services.
  • 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.
  • Most of the refugees living in the twin city are relatively poor. It is particularly difficult for the small number of non-Afghan refugees (e.g. Myanmarese and Somali) to find employment.
  • There are only limited projects to provide child friendly spaces and projects oriented towards youth and adolescents.
  • While piped municipal water is available in urban areas, water and sanitation systems do not extend into slum areas. There is also a lack of awareness within the refugee community on general health and hygiene.

KP – Peshawar

269,583 urban refugees

  • Peshawar hosts the largest urban refugee population with over a quarter of a million Afghan refugees living in urban areas. In fact, almost 1 in 4 inhabitants are Afghans. Formal community structures exist, but due to the size of the refugee population in Peshawar, some refugees remain unaware of these committees.
  • 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. Additional local policing was introduced in several urban areas to improve the security situation, but there have been allegations of harassment and financial extortion by these additional police.
  • Land ownership and rental agreements are notable issues in Peshawar highlighted by the refugee community. These issues stem from new provincial laws regulating rental agreements for rented accommodation which does not include provision for the PoR cardholders, disadvantaging them.
  • There is a chronic shortage of schools in Peshawar, particularly for girls, with the result that very few Afghans gain entry to government schools. In addition, barriers to children being admitted to schools include the cost, lack of documentation, differences in curriculum between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the low quality of the education facilities that are available. An informal education programme would help develop the skills of children currently sent out to work by their parents due to extreme poverty and could provide constructive alternatives to their current, often very dangerous employment.
  • Afghans refugees are normally admitted to public hospitals but do have to pay for the same services that are free for the host community.
  • Unemployment is high in Peshawar, particularly amongst Afghan youths, who would greatly benefit from relevant vocational training. Competition for employment is fierce. Historically, there have been surprisingly few projects supporting Afghan children, adolescents and youths.
  • Beyond the jurisdiction of the town management authority, residents often face severe problems with both water supply and sewerage.

KP – Abbottabad

17,895 urban refugees

  • Abbottabad is relatively large, with an estimated 1.4 million inhabitants. The general relationship with the host community is friendly. The refugee communities in urban settings have no formal community structures.
  • While most refugees are daily wage labourers, a few work in offices or run their own businesses
  • Refugees often have difficulties accessing public hospitals. When they are admitted, the quality of service that they receive is also reported to be lower than that received by the host community.
  • The city is generally clean but requires more frequent cleaning of drains. Piped drinking water is available in houses in urban areas.

KP – Charsadda

9,771 urban refugees

  • In Charsadda, while there are no community structures for refugees in urban settings, the general relationship with the host community is cordial.
  • Afghan refugee children can generally attend government schools in Charsadda. However, many refugees are not admitted to government hospitals and have to travel to one of the basic health units in the refugee villages outside of Charsadda city.
  • Livelihood opportunities are fairly scarce in Charsadda and competition for jobs is fierce. Refugees are most commonly daily wage labourers or seasonal farmhands.
  • Some cases have been reported that police collect PoR cards of registered Afghans and then refer them to Court under section 14 of the Foreigners Act.
  • All Afghan refugees have access to public water distribution points and urban areas are generally in a good condition.

KP – Haripur

30,964 urban refugees

  • In Haripur, 1 in 10 inhabitants are Afghans. There are no community structures for refugees in urban settings although there is social cohesion among the refugees and the host community. Most of the refugees have rented houses and have good relations with their landlords.
  • Refugees do report cases of police harassment and difficulties accessing government health facilities.
  • Schools are heavily oversubscribed. Those schools that are operational require extensive rehabilitation, furniture and training for the teachers.
  • Refugees often have difficulties accessing public hospitals. When they are admitted, the quality of service that they receive is also reported to be lower than that received by the host community.
  • Refugees in Haripur are seasonal farmhands, work in factories or as labourers on construction sites. A few are employed in carpet weaving distribution or restaurant businesses. There is great demand for vocational trainings in relevant sectors.
  • There are no issues with clean water, toilets, electricity or gas supply. However drains need to be cleaned and covered and pose a serious health risk especially during the monsoon season.

KP – Kohat

12,368 urban refugees

  • Kohat is ethnically sensitive with a volatile security situation and a history of frequent escalations of violent tensions. Local refugee Shura committees are active. Over 7% of the local population are estimated to be Afghan.
  • Most refugees in Kohat are daily wage labourers. Travel restrictions and police harassment at checkposts in Kohat also negatively impact on refugees’ ability to find and hold onto jobs.
  • Admission of refugee students to government schools is without prejudice in Kohat. However, refugees are not always admitted to public hospitals.
  • There is a shortage of public drinking water distribution points in urban areas and the general hygiene condition is considered to be relatively poor.

KP – Mansehra

26,636 urban refugees

  • Mansehra has a large population of over 1.7 million inhabitants. In Mansehra, there are no community structures for refugees in urban settings. The relationship with the host community is friendly, although refugees do report cases of police harassment and financial extortion.
  • Refugees often have difficulties accessing public hospitals. They often have to wait for longer than patients from the host community and are not given free medicine from the available stock.
  • While piped drinking water is available in most houses in urban areas, Mansehra city does not have adequate sewerage systems resulting in often unsanitary conditions.

KP – Mardan

14,021 urban refugees

  • Mardan has a large population of over 2.3 million inhabitants and refugees in Mardan have an active and organised community. The relationship between refugees and the host community is friendly and cooperative.
  • Girls school attendance is significantly higher than in other districts, due to the high number of girls schools and the monthly stipends provided to the families of female students. Nevertheless, the majority of schools require rehabilitation, additional rooms and improved WASH facilities. Also, some refugees reported that enrolling their children in government schools was not straightforward.
  • Refugees and unregistered Afghan migrants generally cannot access public hospitals. Those refugees that are admitted normally have to pay for the same services that are free for the host community. Health officials at these centres instead refer Afghans to one of the BHUs or health facilities in the refugee villages.
  • Refugees in Mardan are relatively poor and largely depend upon agriculture and industrial labour which is seasonal and casual in nature.
  • Piped municipal water is available in houses in urban areas although due to the age of the supply system, excessive corrosion in some localities significantly reduces the quality of the water.

KP – Nowshera

25,919 urban refugees

  • Nowshera has at least 1.2 million inhabitants and an estimated 7% of the population are Afghan. The refugee community is well organised and the host population cooperates with both refugees and unregistered Afghans equally. Nevertheless, refugees report excessive harassment by police.
  • There is a chronic shortage of schools in Nowshera, particularly for girls and refugees are generally not encouraged to enrol their children in government schools. Afghan refugees are however admitted to government health facilities without prejudice.
  • The child protection unit is active in identifying and resolving child protection issues regardless of the children’s nationality or area of origin.
  • Most refugees are employed as daily wage labourers in factories or on farms.
  • While water is available in most localities, it is generally unsafe to drink. The sewerage system is also in poor condition.

KP – Swabi

15,941 urban refugees

  • Swabi is an agricultural district, and most refugees find seasonal labour on farms.
  • Jirga systems are active in Swabi and at each police station, a conflict resolution council has been formed. The relationship with the local law enforcement agencies is tense and often not very cordial.
  • Piped municipal water is available in most houses in urban areas, though there are problems with the maintenance of the water and sewerage infrastructure.

Punjab – Lahore

9,754 urban refugees

  • The general relationship with the host community is peaceful and members of both communities often work together in businesses. Refugees in Lahore are generally able to find employment.
  • There are no community structures for refugees in urban settings although community meetings do take place in offices and Hujras in the city.
  • Enrolment of refugee children in government schools is often problematic. Girls’ attendance at school is particularly low, especially once girls reach their teens.
  • Refugees can access public hospitals in Lahore though they normally have to pay for the services.
  • 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.
  • There are also no specific child friendly spaces and no known projects with activities oriented towards adolescents and youth for refugees. Refugee children have no access to government child protection institutes.
  • Alleged harassment by police in Lahore increased significantly in early 2015 and remains elevated.
  • Drinking water is available from hand pumps which are normally accessible to refugee communities. Sanitation infrastructure is underdeveloped or non-existent in slum areas. There is also a lack of awareness within the refugee community on general health and hygiene.

Punjab – Rawalpindi

33,439 urban refugees

  • In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the relationship with the host community remains tense. While some refugee communities are well organised with an active Jirga system, others lack community structures.
  • Afghan students often struggle to gain admission to government education facilities, particularly for the 9th and 10th grades when students normally study for the board exams. Only one Afghan school is operational, which is overcrowded and has inadequate facilities.
  • Refugees can generally access public or private hospitals directly without prejudice, although have reported delayed or sub-standard services.
  • 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.
  • Most of the refugees living in the twin city are relatively poor. It is particularly difficult for the small number of non-Afghan refugees (e.g. Myanmarese and Somali) to find employment.
  • There are only limited projects to provide child friendly spaces and projects oriented towards youth and adolescents.
  • While piped municipal water is available in urban areas, water and sanitation systems do not extend into slum areas. There is also a lack of awareness within the refugee community on general health and hygiene.

Sindh – Karachi

62,759 urban refugees

  • In Karachi, with an estimated population of at least 10 million, the refugee population live in scattered urban locations with very limited community structures. The exception is in Gadap town, where over half of refugees in Karachi live and committees are well organised. The relationships with the host community are often tense and are fuelled by intense competition for jobs, resources and services.
  • It is usually not possible for Afghan students to gain admission to government education facilities as in Karachi, these tend to only be available to the host community. These schools are also often substantial distances from the refugee communities with only limited public transport available. The Afghan schools in Gadap town are heavily oversubscribed. Child labour is also relatively common and enrolment rates of children in school are thought to be particularly low.
  • Refugees and unregistered Afghan migrants generally cannot access public hospitals in Karachi. Those Afghans that are admitted receive a sub-standard quality of service.
  • There is huge demand for vocational skills trainings.
  • In Karachi, surprisingly given the size of the city, there are no specific child friendly spaces and no known projects with activities oriented towards adolescents and youth.
  • Adequate water and sanitation infrastructure does not exist in many communities in Karachi. Drinking water is normally supplied by relatively expensive water tankers. Hygiene conditions in refugee communities are reported to be poor.