AI reiterates calls on Pakistan to halt detentions, deportations of Afghan migrants

Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday reissued its plea to the Pakistani government, urging an immediate cessation of “ongoing detentions, deportations, and pervasive harassment” of Afghan migrants.

The human rights watchdog expressed grave concerns over the risk faced by thousands of migrants being sent back to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where an intensified crackdown on human rights raises life-threatening conditions.

“No one should be subjected to mass forced deportations, and Pakistan would do well to remember its international legal obligations, including the principle of non-refoulement,” Livia Saccardi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns for South Asia, voiced her apprehension, said. “If the Pakistani government doesn’t halt the deportations immediately, it will be denying thousands of at-risk Afghans, especially women and girls, access to safety, education, and livelihood.”

The recent ultimatum from the Pakistani government for all ‘unregistered foreign nationals’ to leave the country by November 1 has resulted in the departure of over 170,000 Afghans, many of whom have resided in Pakistan for decades.

The situation has escalated, with police now directly detaining migrants deemed “illegal” at deportation centers.

Amnesty International underscored the lack of transparency, due process, and accountability in recent detentions and deportations.

The organization raised concerns about conditions in the 49 detention centers set up across Pakistan, citing reports of detainees being denied legal rights and families struggling to trace their loved ones.

“Such centers are in violation of the right to liberty and a fair trial. Also, no information is made public, making it hard for families to trace their loved ones,” the organization stated.

The deportation threat extends to Afghan journalists at risk in Pakistan, as they fear persecution upon their return to Afghanistan.

Approximately 200 Afghan journalists are at risk in Pakistan, according to the Pakistan-Afghan International Forum of Journalists.

Asad, an Afghan journalist hiding in Pakistan since the Taliban takeover in 2021, expressed his predicament. “Even though I entered Pakistan on a valid visa and have applied for renewal, I do not have anything to show the authorities if they turn up at my doorstep. I have stopped sending my children to school for the past two weeks,” he said.

Amnesty International emphasized that Pakistan must fulfill its obligations under international human rights law to ensure the safety and well-being of Afghan migrants within its borders.

“The government, along with UNHCR, must expedite the registration of applicants seeking refuge in Pakistan, particularly women and girls, journalists, and those belonging to minority and ethnic communities as they face heightened risks,” said Saccardi.

Figures by the United Nations show that more than 287,000 Afghan migrants have returned to Afghanistan after Pakistan started the deportation of undocumented immigrants.