Watchdog urges immediate halt to ‘mass detentions, deportations’ of Afghan refugees by Pakistan

Afghan migrants preparing for leaving their homes in Pakistan. Nov. 8, 2023. File photo.

Amnesty International issued a call on Friday, urging the Pakistani government to immediately cease “the ongoing detentions, deportations”, and widespread harassment of Afghan refugees.

Livia Saccardi, Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns for South Asia at Amnesty International, highlighted the dire situation, expressing concern that thousands of Afghan refugees are being used as political pawns.

“Thousands of Afghan refugees are being used as political pawns to be returned to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where their life and physical integrity could be at risk amidst an intensified crackdown on human rights and an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe,” said Saccardi in a statement.

The Pakistani government’s actions have raised international legal concerns, with Amnesty International emphasizing the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the forced return of individuals to a country where they may face persecution or harm.

The government’s deadline for ‘unregistered foreign nationals’ to leave Pakistan has led to the reported expulsion of more than 170,000 Afghans, who have resided in the country for decades. Amnesty International expressed worries about the lack of transparency, due process, and accountability in the recent detentions and deportations.

The organization has identified concerns about the conditions in the detention centers, including the absence of legal rights for detainees, such as the right to a lawyer or communication with family members. The lack of public information adds to the challenges faced by families seeking to trace their loved ones.

Amnesty International called on the Pakistani government to fulfill its obligations under international human rights law, ensure the safety and well-being of Afghan refugees within its borders, and immediately halt deportations to prevent further escalation of the crisis.

This comes as aPakistani official said on Thursday that at least 80,000 undocumented Afghan immigrants have been deported from Pakistan’s Balochistan so far, with plans to expedite the deportation process in the coming days, as reported by Pakistani media.