Pakistan accused of widespread abuses against Afghan migrants, HRW report reveals

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on Tuesday alleging that Pakistani authorities have committed extensive abuses against Afghan migrants to compel their return to Afghanistan, resulting in mass detentions, property seizures, and the destruction of identity documents.

According to the report, since mid-September 2023, over 375,000 Afghans have been forced out of Pakistan, with 20,000 facing deportation. The mistreatment includes coercive measures against Afghans born in Pakistan and those who could face persecution in Afghanistan, such as women, girls, human rights defenders, journalists, and former government employees.

“Pakistani officials have created a coercive environment for Afghans to force them to return to life-threatening conditions in Afghanistan,” stated Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Reports from human rights activists and journalists suggest a campaign to compel Afghans to leave, including night raids involving beatings, threats, and detentions by police. The UN and the International Organization for Migration reported that 92 percent of Afghans leaving Pakistan feared detention by Pakistani authorities.

Allegations also include sexual harassment and threats of assault against Afghan women and girls by Pakistani police. Pakistani officials have attributed a recent uptick in attacks by militant groups to “illegal migrants.”

HRW revealed that Pakistan has required Afghans awaiting resettlement in countries like the US, UK, and others to pay an exit fee of $830. This charge is applied only to those not returning to Afghanistan.

The UNHCR highlighted the challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of Afghans arriving in Afghanistan amid winter and an economic crisis. Pakistani authorities have prohibited Afghans from carrying more than 50,000 Pakistani rupees out of the country.

The forced deportations violate Pakistan’s obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and the principle of non-refoulement. HRW urged the US, UK, Germany, and Canada to expedite resettlement for at-risk Afghans and called on governments to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan exacerbated by the influx of migrants.