Pakistan extends repatriation deadline for Afghan refugees

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Pakistan has extended the deadline to expel more than two million Afghan refugees,by a year,  amid growing opposition to their stay by local communities.

Around 1.4 million refugees, registered with the UN agency, can live in Pakistan until June 30, 2020, said Ziaur Rehman, an official at the Ministry that deals with the issue.

While another 800,000 Afghans, who have not registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), will have to leave by the end of October, Rehman added.

The Pakistan government decided to expel refugees after the country’s spy agencies blamed them for abetting militants, who killed more than 150 children at a school in 2014.

The decision was however, not followed through after objections by humanitarian groups, the latest, which coincides with a visit by Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan, seeking to reset ties between the estranged neighbours, after years of mistrust.

The UNHCR is undertaking a voluntary repatriation programme for 1.4 million Afghans, most of them living in Pakistan since their country was invaded by Soviet Russia in 1979.

The previous deadline was set to end by June 30.

Rahila L.