Pakistan’s government plans to deport more than 1.4 million Afghan nationals after November 1, and the United Nations is calling on the country to stop to prevent human rights abuses.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a press release that it was “extremely concerned” by Pakistan’s expulsion announcement, as more than two million undocumented Afghans are currently living in the country.
Of the two million, more than 600,000 are migrants who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban regained power in August 2021.
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Some of those facing deportation include civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, former government officials and members of the security forces. Also at risk are women and girls, who are prohibited from obtaining secondary and higher education, working in multiple escorts and other aspects of daily life due to the policies implemented in Afghanistan by the Taliban leaders.
If Pakistan follows through on deportation, the OHCHR said they could be at risk of human rights abuses if they are sent back to Afghanistan, including torture, cruel and inhuman treatment and arbitrary arrest and detention.
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Pakistan announced it would deport undocumented Afghans on October 3, and according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there has already been a “sharp increase” in Afghan deportations.
The UN said a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and IOM claimed that the number of Afghans who fled Pakistan between October 3 and 14 was 59,780, and 78 percent of those who returned to Afghanistan said they feared they would are re-arrested for fleeing Pakistan.
“As the November 1 deadline approaches, we call on the Pakistani authorities to suspend the forced returns of Afghan nationals before it is too late to avoid a human rights catastrophe,” UN officials said. “We call on them to continue to provide protection to those in need and to ensure that any future returns are safe, dignified and voluntary and fully consistent with international law.”
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The UN also said mass deportations or any deportations without individualized determination of personal circumstances would amount to a violation of international human rights law, particularly the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
He also said mass deportations with winter approaching could worsen Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis as the country grapples with the effects of a series of earthquakes that hit Herat province earlier this month.
As a result of the earthquakes, 1,400 people lost their lives, 1,8000 people were injured and out of a population of 43 million, nearly 30 million are in need of relief, while 3.3 million are internally displaced.
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“We remind the de facto authorities of the international human rights obligations that continue to blind Afghanistan as a state and their obligations to protect, promote and fulfill human rights,” the statement said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.