UNHCR warns of ‘grave hardship, risks’ for Afghan returnees

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), raised concerns about the dire circumstances faced by a large number of Afghans who have been compelled to leave Pakistan, emphasizing the severity of the hardships and risks they encounter.

In a statement posted on X social media platform, Grandi highlighted that Afghanistan is currently mired in a humanitarian crisis, which is exacerbated by the impending winter. He pointed out that the forced expulsion of Afghan migrants will only worsen the situation in the country.

“I urge Pakistan to maintain its longstanding tradition of offering refuge to vulnerable Afghans,” he stated.

Pakistan officially initiated an arrest and deportation campaign for undocumented Afghan migrants on November 1.

Pakistani authorities have called for the repatriation of “illegal migrants,” encompassing approximately 1.7 million undocumented Afghan refugees. A considerable number of Afghan nationals voluntarily departed from Pakistan after the government set a deadline in mid-September for undocumented migrants to leave the country.

Simultaneously, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) expressed its deep concerns in a statement regarding the reports of escalated detainment, violence, and intimidation targeting the Ahmadiyya and Afghan refugee communities in Pakistan.

“We are particularly concerned that the Pakistani government may forcibly return religious minorities who fled persecution to Afghanistan,” cautioned USCIRF Commissioner David Curry. “Under Taliban rule, Christians, Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Sikhs cannot freely practice their religious beliefs in Afghanistan. The U.S. government must continue to engage with Pakistani officials to press them to reconsider this policy decision,” Curry added.

Pakistani media outlets have reported that around 200,000 Afghans have returned to Afghanistan thus far.