Afghan refugees in Pakistan are currently facing the threat of forced deportation by the Pakistani government, scheduled for November 1st, 2023. While Pakistan has hosted tens of thousands of Afghan refugees over the years, this decision places many of them at risk of becoming homeless and unsafe as they return to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The rights and safety of various vulnerable groups, including women, marginalized ethnic and religious communities, artists, journalists, and former government and military officials, are jeopardized.
In a conversation with Femena, former government official Nasrin Hamidi revealed, “The Pakistani government has given us until the end of October to voluntarily leave Pakistan, or face deportation. This includes individuals whose visas have expired and are awaiting extensions. This announcement has empowered Pakistani police forces to harass and arrest Afghans, even those with documentation and cases with UNHRC. Many activists, athletes, artists, and lawyers had no other option after the fall of Afghanistan in 2021 and ended up in Pakistan. Now, they are facing deportation with uncertain futures. I have applied for a visa extension for my family, but visas have not been processed yet, and we might be forced to leave Pakistan by November 1st.”
Before this announcement, Afghan refugees seeking safety in Pakistan already faced persistent harassment and abuse. This recent decision worsens their situation, with the Pakistani government putting the lives of thousands of Afghans at risk. Moreover, forcibly deporting Afghan refugees facing threats, imprisonment, torture, and even death in Afghanistan constitutes a breach of Pakistan’s international legal obligations. Escalating poverty under Taliban rule and increased violence targeting Afghan women, activists, artists, and marginalized ethnic groups make Afghanistan an unsafe destination for their return. In a recent report, Richard Bennett Afghanistan Special Rapartour described the human rights situation in Afghanistan as a “perfect storm of human rights challenges” requiring “urgent redress.”
In light of the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the Taliban, Femena urgently demands the following:
- Reversal of the decision to forcibly deport Afghan refugees by the government of Pakistan and an immediate halt to the harassment and abuse of Afghan refugees in the country.
- Expedited resettlement processes for those with pathways to safe countries beyond Pakistan, facilitated by relevant governments.
Femena urges the international community to stand together in protecting the lives and rights of Afghan refugees, ensuring their safety, dignity, and well-being amidst the challenging circumstances they face.