Representatives of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan are running a campaign among the over two million refugees to protect themselves from the coronavirus and to contain the pandemic in camps, a refugee leader said on Sunday. Pakistan still hosts more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, holding Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, according to the UN refugee agency. POR cards grant Afghan refugees the right to temporary legal stay in Pakistan. Pakistani officials say nearly 880,000 Afghans, who have been documented but do not hold PoR cards, also live in the country. They hold Afghan Citizenship Cards (ACC) and can stay in Pakistan. There are also thousands more Afghan refugees, who do not fall into both categories and are considered as illegal immigrants. Since 2002, some 4.4 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation operation. Arsala Kharoti, who heads an Afghan refugees committee, said on Sunday that the COVID-19 has also affected Afghan refugees in Pakistan and they currently face many problems due to the lockdown. “Our committee is running an awareness campaign among the refugees in camps in Pakistan to contain the COVID-19. Besides, the committee also distributes masks, gloves, food items, sanitizer, soaps, banners, posters inscribed with precautionary measures, and we will continue this,” Kharoti, chief of the “Committee for Solving the Problems of Afghan Refugees” told Daily Times. He said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had launched a financial support program with the support of the Pakistan government for the Afghan refugees but the “aid could not reach many refugees, who have been affected by the lockdown.” In April the UNHCR had distributed medical supplies, personal protective equipment and sanitation products, such as sanitary clothes, soap and disinfectants, and other relief items to rural health facilities in support of refugees and their host communities in Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan had issued directives to the government authorities in March to prepare a relief package for Afghan refugees locked in lockdown situation due to the coronavirus epidemic. Officials say many Afghan refugees are living in 52 refugee camps all across Pakistan of which about 80 percent are daily wagers. Kharoti; however, said the committee has received many complaints that deserving people have not received the UNHCR and Pakistani aid. “According to our information this process of financial support was not transparent and we demand transparency of the program,” he said. Kharoti also said thousands of refugees are also stuck in Afghanistan due to the closure of Torkham and Chaman crossings with Afghanistan in view of the corona pandemic, urging the Pakistani government to do something for the reopening of the crossing points to facilitate their return. He said Afghan refugees should be facilitated for cross-border movement through the PoR cards but if this is difficult then issuance of visas to Afghans should be eased and their stay in Pakistan be extended. The UN refugee agency had suspended voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan after the country temporarily closed its border with Afghanistan over COVID-19. Afghan refugees with PoR cards have the right to stay legally in Pakistan. The tenure of the stay had expired on June 30, however, Pakistan has not yet granted another extension. UNHCR sources said that the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), which deals with the Afghan refugees, had sent a summary to the federal cabinet for extension but no decision has yet been taken. “We demand extension of the refugee stay until the restoration of a durable peace and reconciliation,” Kharoti said. He also urged the UNHCR to address the problems of the refugees and honor its international obligations. He appealed to the Afghan government to help those refugees who have returned to the country. Those refugees, who have returned to Afghanistan, face lack of basic needs and security problems that also forced many refugees to leave the country,” he said. Kharoti said refugee camps face the problems of health, education, electricity and clean drinking water and we demand serious attention to solution to the problems, adding that locals in some areas of Pakistan are harassing refugees under the pretext of ownership rights, create problems and want to forcibly eject them from homes. “Afghan refugees face problems in getting a driving license and we hope refugees get license in accordance with the law. Many Afghan refugees do not have legal permits for business. We hope the government of Pakistan issues business licenses to the Afghan refugees to remove hurdles in the way of their business,” he said. Kharoti said Afghan refugees face difficulties in inter province movement and refugees are not allowed to stay in some hotels on the PoR cards. Explaining objectives of the committee, Kharoti said the committee has two basic objectives – to ensure dignified stay of refugees in Pakistan and the voluntary, safe, honorable repatriation of the refugees to their homeland. Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees for nearly 40 years following the invasion of Afghanistan by the erstwhile Soviet Union. Pakistani officials are now suggesting that the repatriation and reintegration of Afghan refugees should be part of the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement on Feb. 29 that paves the way for withdrawal of foreign troops to end the longest American war.