The Secretary-General of Amnesty International, Dr. Agnès Callamard, on Friday, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan, addressing the overwhelming problems and challenges Afghan refugees are faced in Pakistan.
In her letter, Dr. Callamard mentioned that the Pakistani government lacks a national and comprehensive law to protect Afghan refugees with no specific pathway or mechanism to determine the status of refugees. She further added that Afghan citizens are left in limbo with no specific pathway to follow.
In the letter issued on Friday, it is stated that Afghans currently residing in Pakistan without legal documents are mostly unable to rent a house from landlords. They cannot open bank accounts to receive money from relatives in their own names. Also, Afghans are not able to get their own SIM cards due to a lack of identification documents and Pakistani policies in this regard.
According to the laws of Pakistan, every Afghan citizen – with or without a visa must leave the country once every two months and their passports must have an exit stamp. Many of the newly arrived Afghan immigrants to Pakistan were human rights activists, journalists, and former government employees – their departure from Pakistan may endanger their lives.
Dr. Callamard further stressed that the government of Pakistan should protect the rights of refugees for freedom of expression and peaceful gatherings – arresting refugees on the pretext of not having documents should be stopped.
Amnesty International’s open letter came as Afghan immigrants in Pakistan are wrestling with various challenges including lack of attention from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees [UNHCR], unemployment, discrimination, detention as well as possible deportation and imprisonment.