In recent developments, United Nations Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, has expressed deep concern over reports of the abuse faced by Afghan refugees in Pakistan during the execution of the country’s forced mass deportation policy. This alarming revelation sheds light on a myriad of issues, ranging from arbitrary expulsions to ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, destruction of property, and extortion.
The Urgency of Individual Assessment Procedures
Türk, in a statement on Wednesday, called on Pakistani authorities to immediately suspend the repatriation program until individual assessment procedures and other safeguards mandated by international law are firmly in place. The severity of the reported abuses necessitates a thorough examination of each case to ensure justice and compliance with human rights standards.
Unveiling the Mass Deportation Drive
Pakistan, home to over a million registered Afghan refugees, initiated a mass deportation drive, urging them to voluntarily leave the country by November 1. Disturbingly, the UN reports that over 327,000 refugees have been repatriated to Afghanistan from Pakistan, with many forced to leave due to the fear of arrest.
Disturbing Reports and UN’s Plea
The UN has received distressing reports, including night raids, confiscation of assets, arbitrary arrests, and detentions by local Pakistani police. Türk has called for a thorough investigation into these complaints of abuse by law enforcement officers. Arbitrary arrests and detentions, Türk emphasizes, stand in clear violation of Pakistan’s obligations under international law.
Vulnerability of Women and Girls
Türk highlights the particular vulnerability of women and girls if repatriated involuntarily. The policies and edicts of the de facto authorities in Afghanistan severely limit their rights to education, access to earning a living, movement, and participation in public life. This underscores the urgent need for international attention and intervention.
Historical Context: Afghanistan’s Refugee Crisis
As of the end of 2022, Pakistan hosted more than 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees and an additional 427,000 people in “refugee-like situations.” The historical context of Afghan refugees in Pakistan dates back to 1979, during the Soviet invasion, and has seen significant waves, including the recent influx in 2021 after the Taliban retook Kabul.
Controversies and Crackdowns
The presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan has long been controversial, marked by police crackdowns and threats of deportation. Pakistan’s authorities have framed these actions as a crackdown on “illegal immigrants.” A task force has been established to identify individuals with fake identity cards and illegal properties, with orders for the cancellation of fake identity cards confirmed by DNA testing.
Conclusion: A Call for International Solidarity
The plight of Afghan refugees in Pakistan demands immediate attention from the international community. The reported abuses and violations of international law underscore the urgency for a comprehensive response. It is imperative that the rights and well-being of these vulnerable individuals, especially women and girls, are safeguarded, and justice is served. The international community must unite in condemning these actions and work towards a just and humane resolution.