HRW raises concerns over Afghan refugees’ situation in Pakistan amid deportation deadline

Human Rights Watch has raised concerns about the precarious situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, describing it as a “political football” where they have long been “shuffled back and forth between the two countries with little regard for their rights.”

Pakistan has set a deadline for “illegal” Afghan refugees to leave the country by November 4. This deadline applies to the 1.73 million Afghans considered illegal by the Pakistani government.

The HRW has criticized the broad calls by Pakistani officials for the mass deportation of Afghan refugees, stating that such calls “have led to an increase in police abuse against Afghans, including harassment, assault, and arbitrary detention.”

Patricia Gossman, Associate Asia director at the HRW, expressed her concerns, saying, “With resettlement countries hesitating and the United Nations caught off guard by the Pakistani announcement, Afghans face the threat of being returned home to face Taliban persecution and a humanitarian crisis.”

In the meantime, Afghan refugees in Pakistan report psychological pressure due to harassment by Pakistani police. Following the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of Afghans sought refuge in neighboring countries, either to escape threats from the Taliban or dire economic crises in their home country. Many of them now face an uncertain future.

In response to the crackdown on Afghan refugees by Pakistani officials, even those with legal documents have been detained by the country’s police. Tamim Ghiasi, who came to Pakistan nearly two years ago to pursue his American humanitarian visa, was detained by police for about two hours in Rawalpindi last week, despite having legal documents.

“On October 09, I was detained by the police and taken to the police center. I was released through the efforts of my Pakistani friends. I was released again after two hours,” he said, calling on Pakistani officials to cease the harassment and detention of Afghans who fled the Taliban seeking safety.

Shafiullah Dost, another Afghan refugee with experience in media, expressed how he is forced to stay home to avoid police detention. He highlighted that in some parts of Pakistan, Afghans are still being detained and harassed by the police, causing mental pressure and psychological issues.

Dost called for the Pakistani government and international organizations to take concrete steps to ensure the rights of refugees.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 60,000 Afghans have moved to Pakistan since the fall of the previous Afghan government.