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Pakistan government must stop ignoring global calls to halt unlawful deportation of Afghan refugees, says Amnesty International
Photo Courtesy: UNOCHA | Sayed Habib Bidel

Pakistan government must stop ignoring global calls to halt unlawful deportation of Afghan refugees, says Amnesty International

| @indiablooms | 05 Apr 2024, 07:11 pm

Reacting to the announcement by the newly elected Government of Pakistan to expand and expedite its plans to unlawfully deport Afghan refugees in the country after the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr next week, James Jennion, Campaigner for the Refugee and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International, said.

“The Pakistan authorities’ callous disregard for the persecution, serious human rights violations and humanitarian catastrophe that await Afghan refugees if deported to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is heart-breaking. Instead of heeding repeated global calls to halt deportations, the newly elected Pakistani government has disappointingly now extended the deportation drive to Afghan Citizen Card (ACC) holders as well," James Jennion said.

“The decision endangers the lives of over 800,000 Afghan refugees across Pakistan and threatens to unleash another wave of harassment and detentions after the holy month of Ramadan," the Amnesty campaigner said.

“Pakistan’s ‘Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan’ is in violation of refugee and international human rights law, particularly the principle of non-refoulement, and puts the lives of all Afghan refugees at risk, particularly women, girls, journalists, human rights defenders, women protestors, artists, and former Afghan government and security officials. The Government’s decision also lacks transparency and arbitrarily cancels the validity of the ACC documentation that was issued by the Government of Pakistan itself," he said.

“We call on the Pakistani authorities to immediately reverse these decisions and urgently pass human rights-compliant law protecting the rights of refugees in the country and become a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees along with its Protocols," he said.

Many Afghans living in fear of persecution following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 fled to Pakistan, where they have been subjected to waves of arbitrary detentions, arrests, and the threat of deportation. 

In October 2023, a  phase 1 of the ‘Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan’ was announced with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” Afghan refugees to leave the country  or be subject to deportation putting 1.4 million refugees at risk.

Since then, Amnesty International said it has documented a complete lack of transparency, due process and accountability in the detentions and unlawful deportations of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, which was exacerbated by increased harassment and hostility towards them.

In phase 2 of the ‘repatriation plan’, Pakistan-issued Afghan Citizen Card (ACC) holders will be expelled from the country after the Eid Al-Fitr festival, a major Muslim holiday expected to fall on 10 April 2024 in the region. Phase 3 is expected to result in the forced and unlawful deportation of UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) card holders.

Since September 2023, 527, 981 Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan—leaving behind their homes, properties and community in Pakistan. The government states that there are over 800,000 ACC holders, while UNHCR estimates there are 1.3 million PoR holders in Pakistan.

Amnesty International said it has repeatedly urged the government to reverse its decision to deport Afghan refugees, most recently in its ten-point Human Rights Charter for the newly elected government in Pakistan.

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