The United Nations, in a recent press release, has expressed increasing alarm over the repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan. Highlighting the disproportionate impact on women, girls, ethnic and religious minorities, and disabled individuals, the UN experts have underscored the potentially egregious violations of international conventions that may arise from the execution of this repatriation plan.
Roots of the Concern
Since 1 November, Afghan nationals forcibly evicted from Pakistan face grave risks of human rights infringements upon return to their homeland. The UN experts have cautioned Pakistan's government that their Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan lacks provisions for individual assessments of irreparable harm and risks that returnees may face. The experts also called attention to reported arbitrary arrests of Afghan nationals, including children, since the onset of 2023 and warned against drawing unfounded connections between refugees, migrants, and terrorism risks.
Flaws in the Repatriation Plan
The UN experts pointed out that the current repatriation plan lacks crucial components such as individual assessments of irreparable harm and risks the repatriated Afghan nationals might face. There have also been reports of arbitrary arrests of Afghan nationals in Pakistan, including children, since the beginning of 2023. The experts have sternly warned against drawing groundless links between the presence of refugees and migrants and the risks of terrorism.
Call for International Support
The experts implored the international community to provide support for hosting Afghan refugees. This includes increased opportunities for resettlement and rights-based family reunification. Amidst this, the suspension of aid operations in Afghanistan has further exacerbated the situation, pushing more people towards starvation and causing a surge in domestic violence.
Despite the international outcry, the deportation of undocumented Afghan migrants from Pakistan has continued. As of December 5, 2023, a total of 2,028 migrants had returned to Afghanistan, marking a slight decrease in numbers compared to the previous day. Cumulatively, 412,184 illegal Afghan nationals have been repatriated to Afghanistan as part of the ongoing efforts to address the issue of undocumented migrants.
Response from the United States
Pakistan and the United States are currently discussing ways to expedite the resettlement process for thousands of Afghans eligible for migration to the United States. The US has been working with Pakistan to find a solution to prevent vulnerable Afghans from being deported. They are particularly concerned about individuals such as musicians, artists, journalists, and others who may face eviction. Thomas West, US Special Representative, has begun travels to Pakistan, UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to discuss shared security interests, refugee protection and resettlement, humanitarian needs, human rights, and economic issues.