Amnesty International urges Pakistan to heed calls against Afghan refugees’ deportation

Photo: IOM

ISLAMABAD — Amnesty International on Thursday urged the Pakistani government to heed international calls to stop the unlawful deportation of Afghan refugees.

James Jennion, a campaigner for refugee and migrants’ rights at Amnesty International, criticized the Pakistani government’s plan to accelerate the deportation of Afghan refugees after Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan.

“The Pakistan authorities’ disregard for the dire consequences awaiting Afghan refugees if deported to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is deeply distressing,” Jennion stated. He highlighted the peril facing over 800,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan, including a potential increase in harassment and detentions.

Jennion emphasized that Pakistan’s deportation policy violates international human rights laws, notably the principle of non-refoulement, which forbids returning refugees to places where they face serious threats. The policy, he added, also threatens journalists, human rights defenders, and former Afghan officials, among others, and undermines the validity of the Afghan Citizen Card (ACC), issued by Pakistan itself.

Amnesty International calls on Pakistani authorities to revoke these policies, enact laws compliant with human rights standards for refugees, and adhere to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocols.

Following the Taliban’s August 2021 takeover in Afghanistan, many Afghans fled to Pakistan, facing arbitrary detentions and the threat of deportation. In October 2023, Pakistan announced the first phase of its ‘Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan,’ giving undocumented Afghan refugees 30 days to exit the country or face deportation, affecting 1.4 million individuals.

Amnesty International has documented a lack of transparency and due process in the detentions and deportations of Afghan refugees, along with increased hostility toward them. The second phase of the plan will see ACC holders deported after Eid al-Fitr, expected on April 10, 2024, and the third phase targets the deportation of UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) card holders.

Since September 2023, over 527,000 Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan, leaving behind their lives in Pakistan. The government reports more than 800,000 ACC holders, while the UNHCR estimates 1.3 million PoR holders in the country.

Amnesty International has persistently appealed to the Pakistani government to halt the deportation of Afghan refugees, most recently through a ten-point Human Rights Charter for the new government.