The spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern over Pakistan’s plan to deport undocumented Afghan refugees on November 1st. This will disproportionately affect more than a million Afghans who moved to Pakistan for safety.
The plan for mass deportation was announced earlier this month, after which, 59,780 individuals left Pakistan to return to Afghanistan due to fears of arrest. Currently, there are over 2 million Afghans living in Pakistan without proper documentation, of which 600,000 fled Afghanistan after the takeover of the Taliban in 2021.
Those facing risk of deportation are at even greater risk of being subjected to human rights abuses if they return to Afghanistan. Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the OHCHR, said that “at particular risk are civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, former government officials and security members, and of course women and girls as a whole,” due to harsh policies of gender apartheid banning them from education, employment and many aspects of public life.
Deporting Afghans is a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, defined as the practice of not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they are liable to be subjected to persecution. This international law is included in the Convention Against Torture (CAT), which Pakistan has ratified.
Afghanistan is experiencing an ongoing humanitarian crisis, worsened by two large earthquakes that hit Afghanistan’s northwestern Herat province. The international community has a responsibility to observe and respect the rights of Afghans, rather than punishing them.
OHCR 10/27/2023; OHCR