Iftikhar Khan

PESHAWAR: Most of the Afghan refugees living in camps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are labourers and workers who have lost their source of income during the coronavirus lockdown and now they are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

“Some of the families are even ready nowadays to work just in return for the day’s food, but they are even unable to make that arrangement,” said a social activist, Fayyaz Ali, who recently visited Afghan refugees camp in Khazana area of Peshawar.

He said the Afghan refugees are living in uncertain circumstances as neither the Pakistan nor the Afghan governments have done anything for them during the coronavirus lockdown and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) hasn’t made any contact with them either.

The population of the refugees camp in Khazana is about 1,200 and 700 among them are women and children. Fayyaz said most of men in the camp are daily-wage labourers or drivers and cleaners and they are jobless for the last one month. He said the refugee families in the camp have run out of ration. He said less food for mothers means malnutrition for breast-feeding children.

Fayyaz said the Afghan refugees are not eligible for Pakistani aid under Benazir Income Support Program or Ehsaas Program, therefore, they were hoping to get some help from Afghan Commissionerate or UNHCR. However, he said, the office of these institutions are also closed amid the coronavirus lockdown. He said no welfare organisation has helped anyone from the Khazana camp.

No person from the Khazana camp agreed to talk to media about their problems as they thought it will offend the Afghan Consulate and UNHCR officers.

Dr Sohail, another social activist, also narrated similar story about the condition of Afghan refugees in Rajar and Utmanzai camps in Charsadda. He said the condition of these camps is worse, but the inhabitants are always reluctant to tell media about it. He said the situation will deteriorate further in these camps if arrangements for ration supply were not made on immediate basis.

Unlike Peshawar and Charsadda, a resident of Nowshera refugees camp, Abdul Qayyum held candid discussion about the problems of refugees and said refugees are facing a lot of problems due to lockdown as they don’t have any bank accounts and they keep money with others who are also not accessible nowadays. He said initially some well-off refugees helped the poor ones, but the lockdown is long and now even the wealthy people are using their money very carefully.

He said the Afghan Consulate has completely turned a blind eye towards the problems of Afghan refugees which is a matter of great disappointment.