Pakistan ends ‘drive’ to issue smartcards to registered Afghan refugees

The Pakistan government has concluded its country-wide campaign to verify and update the data of an estimated 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees and to issue them with smart identity cards, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said Sunday.

Following a short pilot, the campaign, supported by UNHCR, began on 15 April 2021 and ended on 31 December 2021. It was the first large-scale verification of refugees in Pakistan in the last 10 years.

According to early provisional results, the data of 1.25 million Afghan refugees was updated and expanded as a result of the campaign, officially known as the documentation renewal and information verification exercise (DRIVE).

Among them were 200,000 children under the age of five who were registered by their refugee parents.

More than 700,000 new smart identity cards have also been issued to date. The remaining cards will be printed and distributed in early 2022.

These cards, which will be valid until 30 June 2023, contain biometric data and are technologically compatible with systems used in Pakistan to authenticate the identities of nationals.

The new smart identity cards are an essential protection tool for Afghan refugees and give them faster and safer access to health and education facilities and to banking services, UNHCR said in a statement.