HEADLINES

Pakistan: Largest Mass Forced Return of Refugees In History

Originally published on (February 13, 2017). Human Rights Watch.

Pakistani authorities have carried out a campaign of abuses and threats to drive out nearly 600,000 Afghans since July 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The returnees include 365,000 registered refugees, making it the world’s largest mass forced return of refugees in recent years. They now face spiraling armed conflict, violence, destitution, and displacement in Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities have carried out a campaign of abuses and threats to drive out nearly 600,000 Afghans since July 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The returnees include 365,000 registered refugees, making it the world’s largest mass forced return of refugees in recent years. They now face spiraling armed conflict, violence, destitution, and displacement in Afghanistan.

The 76-page report, “Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees,” documents Pakistan’s abuses and the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in promoting the exodus. Through enhancing its “voluntary repatriation” program and failing to publicly call for an end to coercive practices, the UN agency has become complicit in Pakistan’s mass refugee abuse.

The UN and international donors should press Pakistan to end the abuses, protect the remaining 1.1 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and allow refugees among the other estimated 750,000 unregistered Afghans there to seek protection, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch - Please donate today to protect human rights for all.After decades of hosting Afghan refugees, Pakistan in mid-2016 unleashed the world’s largest recent anti-refugee crackdowns to coerce their mass return,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Because the UN refugee agency didn’t stand up publicly to Pakistan’s bullying and abuses, international donors should step in to press the government and UN to protect the remaining Afghan refugees in Pakistan.”

Afghan refugees told Human Rights Watch that a toxic combination of insecure legal status, the threat of deportation during winter, and police abuses – including crippling extortion, arbitrary detention, and nocturnal police raids – had left them with no choice but to leave Pakistan.

Many said that UNHCR’s decision in late June to double its cash support, to US $400, for each returning refugee was critical in persuading them to escape Pakistan’s abuses, even though they couldn’t return to their conflict-ridden home areas, or had no house or land to go back to. Refugees also said they felt threatened by the sudden emergence of anti-Afghan hostility in Pakistan.

A 26-year-old Afghan who had returned to Kabul with his wife and two children told Human Rights Watch:

“In July, 11 soldiers and police came to our home at 3 a.m. They entered without asking and threw all our things on the floor. They demanded to see our refugee cards and said they were expired. Then they stole all our money and told us to leave Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s coercion of hundreds of thousands of registered Afghan refugees into returning to Afghanistan violates the international legal prohibition against refoulement – not to forcibly return anyone to a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture or other ill-treatment, or a threat to life. This includes an obligation not to pressure anyone, including registered refugees, into returning to places where they face a serious risk of such harm.

On January 27, UNHCR wrote to Human Rights Watch, saying it shares Human Rights Watch’s “concerns regarding the reported push factors affecting the repatriation from Pakistan,” but it that it “strongly refutes the claim that increasing the cash grant constituted promotion of return,” and that UNHCR “provides support to refugees who make the decision to [return] based on a well-informed consideration of best options.”

UNHCR effectively promoted the forced return between its cash support, its failure to provide refugees with complete, accurate, and up-to-date information on conditions in Afghanistan, and its failure to call the situation refoulement, Human Rights Watch said. This contradicts UNHCR’s basic refugee protection mandate and has made it complicit in Pakistan’s mass refoulement of Afghan refugees.

In early November, citing donor shortfalls, UNHCR said it would end cash support to returnees in mid-December, but plans to resume cash support on March 1, 2017. However, Pakistan says Afghans must leave the country by December 31, 2017, after which they again face the prospect of summary deportation in the middle of winter. Providing such support – even if for humanitarian reasons – without public condemnation of renewed government coercion of refugees to return, would be further complicity in refoulement.

On January 27, UNHCR wrote to Human Rights Watch, saying it shares Human Rights Watch’s “concerns regarding the reported push factors affecting the repatriation from Pakistan,” but it that it “strongly refutes the claim that increasing the cash grant constituted promotion of return,” and that UNHCR “provides support to refugees who make the decision to [return] based on a well-informed consideration of best options.”

The UN refugee agency should end the fiction that the mass forced return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan is, in fact, mass voluntary return,” Simpson said. “If UNHCR feels that giving cash to returning refugees is the best way to help them survive in Afghanistan, it should at the very least make clear it does not consider their return to be voluntary.”

The 76-page report, “Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees,” documents Pakistan’s abuses and the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in promoting the exodus. Through enhancing its “voluntary repatriation” program and failing to publicly call for an end to coercive practices, the UN agency has become complicit in Pakistan’s mass refugee abuse.Pakistan’s forced return of Afghans has come at a particularly dangerous time, with the conflict in Afghanistan killing and injuring more civilians than at any other time since 2009, displacing at least 1.5 million people, and with a third of the population destitute.

In addition, faced with almost 350,000 Afghan asylum seekers in 2015 and the first nine months of 2016, European Union member states have increasingly rejected Afghan asylum claims. In October, the EU used development aid to pressure Afghanistan into accepting increased deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers.

The Pakistani government should avoid recreating in 2017 the conditions that coerced Afghan refugees to leave in 2016, Human Rights Watch said. It should end police abuses and deportation threats, and extend refugee permits until at least March 31, 2019. UNHCR should publicly challenge any further pressure Pakistan places on Afghan refugees to leave. International donors should help Pakistan to properly assist and protect Afghan refugees until it is safe for them to return home, and support UN emergency operations.

EU members should avoid fueling the very instability the EU says it wants stopped by deferring deportation of rejected Afghan asylum seekers until it becomes clear how Kabul will cope with the influx. In the meantime, EU countries should grant Afghans the most favorable status possible under national law and not detain them.

One of the poorest nations on the earth now has to deal with the fallout from Pakistan’s mass forced refugee returns,” Simpson said. “This is not the time for some of the world’s richest nations to add fuel to the flames.” [01]

Click Picture for a Popular Article

  • The remnants of a US drone strike on August 29, 2012 in Khashamir, Yemen. The strike killed three alleged members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a policeman, and a cleric who preached against the armed group.
  • Mission The Islamic State are trying to create 'a state that does not recognise the previous borders of Iraq or Syria,' said Dr. Anne Aly, a Research Fellow at Curtin University. (Photo/source: Daily Mail Australia).
  • The month is also a time of community; it is the custom for Muslims to invite their neighbours and friends to share their evening meal – iftar – and recite special Tarawih prayers in congregation. It is also a time when Muslims try to reconnect with the Qur’an, which they believe is the word of God. However, Children, people who are sick or who have mental illness, elderly people for example do not have to fast.
  • Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov listens to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry during a press conference at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York
  • A malnourished child lies on a weighing machine at a therapeutic feeding Centre at Al Sabyeen hospital in Sana’a. (Reuters)
  • Flag_of_Saudi_Arabia.
  • And now - a country with more than 10,000 people killed in the ensuing violence, over 10,000 more died of starvation under the blockade of humanitarian aid and supplies - the Middle East’s poorest nation, Yemen is reduced to the brink of famine.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Syrian refugees to Canada late Thursday night at Pearson International airport
  • Two homeless brothers try to survive on the streets of India.
  • The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced that the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) will receive $20 million – under the Advanced Manufacturing Fund (AMF) – to establish and operate the Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies. January 13, 2006. (Photo: Adam Scotti). AlistairReignBlog.com
  • Faces of the women who had their lives cut short by Pickton.

Click Picture for a Popular Cartoon

  • Take Our Poll: Come on in and decide for yourself! Who worked the puffy white shirt best?
  • Sesame Street - Grouch Apprentice with Donald Grump
  • GOP Caption winner first place on AlistairReignBlog.com
  • Way-Back Machine: Who Owned It Best? Come on in and pick out your favorite Dracula cape! Who flaunted the full-length cape better than the rest?
  • Way-back Machine: Who Vogue'd It Best? Take our poll at Alistair Reign News Blog: AlistairReignBlog.com
  • The moment Bruce Jenner realized he was a woman
  • Putin Pumpkin Head
  • I hate Monday
  • Who is PM Stephen Harper
  • Victoria's 'Homeless' Drug Addicts