PM Imran Khan announces citizenship for Afghan, Bengali refugees
Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced granting citizenship right to the children of Bengalis and Afghan refugees born in Pakistan, home to the world’s second-largest refugee population.
Khan said the government will issue national identity cards and passports to immigrants from Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
“Afghans whose children have been raised and born in Pakistan will be granted citizenship Inshallah (God willing) because this is the established practice in countries around the world. You get an American passport if you are born in America,” said Khan in the southern port city of Karachi on Sunday night.
“If you are born in America you get an American passport. It happens in all countries around the world so why not here?”
Pakistan’s laws have long allowed those born in the country to apply for citizenship, but they have not been enforced for Afghan refugees.
He said that the crisis of thousands of Bengali and Afghan immigrants is pushing them to crime. “Terrorism and target killing has declined in Karachi but there is a major reason behind the street crimes. It is an underclass. They are illiterate and jobless. They are the Bengalis and Afghans who are living in Pakistan, he said, adding that “These immigrants have lived here for decades, their children were born here, but they don’t have identity cards and passports,” he said.
Mr Khan said undocumented Bengali immigrants living in Pakistan, many of whom fled Bangladesh following its independence in 1971, would also be given passports.
Millions of Afghans fled years of conflict, ethnic and religious persecution, poverty and economic disasters in turmoil-hit Afghanistan since 1970 and many have spent decades in Pakistan.
The United Nations refugee agency and local officials said that there are 2.7 million Afghans, including 1.5 million registered as refugees, in Pakistan. There are around two million Bengali and Burmese migrants in Pakistan, according to local media reports.
The move was welcomed by human rights activists. The United Nations refugee agency spokesman said: “We welcome the statement made by the prime minister on Afghan children born in Pakistan. We look forward to working closely with the government of Pakistan on this issue in the coming weeks.”