Refugees migrated to Pakistan in the late 1970s at the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Despite a desire to stop the influx of refugees, the porous Pak-Afghan border has made it very difficult for Pakistan to do so. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 1.9 million registered refugees were present in Pakistan in January 2011, the vast majority of whom were from Afghanistan. These refugees no longer reside in camps and have spread in almost every town and village of KPK and Punjab, Karachi and even some parts of Balochistan. Most of them are daily wage earners, associated with agriculture/livestock activities or run informal businesses.
As part of the World Justice Project Report on The Rule of Law in Pakistan, Gallup Pakistan conducted surveys in urban Pakistan to explore the views on refugees in Pakistan. According to the findings of the report, 49% Pakistani citizens claim to agree that refugees are welcome in their community. Meanwhile, 1 in 2 Pakistanis (50%) opine that refugees should have the same constitutional rights as citizens. 40% urban Pakistanis also agree that refugees respect the laws of Pakistan.
Exploring public opinion on the treatment of refugees by various institutions in the country, 64% Pakistanis believe that government is doing enough to help the refugees and 58% say that refugees are fairly portrayed in the media. Only 2 in 5 Pakistanis (43%) agree that citizens and refugees are treated equally by the police, pointing towards perceptions of police hostility against the refugees in the public eye.
Refugees’ bringing violence and extremism to Pakistan is the most oft-cited perceived problem in relation to refugees
Respondents were further asked “How serious do you think the following problems are in Pakistan?” In response, 64% urban Pakistanis considered refugees bringing violence and extremism to Pakistan a serious threat, 61% said ethnic tensions between refugees and citizens and 50% said refugees and citizens of Pakistan competing for the same jobs was a serious problem in Pakistan.