UN experts issued a statement on Wednesday, urging the protection of Afghan nationals currently in Pakistan. They highlighted the alarming risk of human rights violations that Afghan nationals forced to leave Pakistan since November 1st may face upon their return.
“They said the Afghan nationals most likely to be affected include women and girls, victims of trafficking, religious and ethnic minorities, former Government officials, persons with disabilities, older persons, and other refugees and migrants – “documented” or “undocumented,” the experts said.
“We wish to caution the Government of Pakistan that the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan (IFRP), which came into effect on 1 November 2023, does not include provisions for individual assessment of irreparable harm and risks that may be faced by Afghan nationals who are forced to return to Afghanistan,” the experts added.
“Afghan nationals, in particular, women and girls, face risks of being trafficked or re-trafficked in the country or during displacement. Persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities are particularly at risk of persecution upon return,” they warned.
“We are concerned that the adoption of the Plan and failure to ensure effective protection for Afghan nationals may violate the absolute prohibition of refoulment under customary international law,” the UN experts said.
The experts are deeply concerned about the Plan’s potential harm to Afghan women and girls due to ongoing gender persecution in Afghanistan. Deportees may face child marriage, trafficking, and loss of rights.
They also express alarm about forced evictions and arrests of Afghan nationals in Pakistan in 2023. They emphasize the need for adherence to international law, including non-refoulement and non-discrimination in migration regulation.
The experts emphasized the importance of providing assistance and protection, including access to asylum rights, without discrimination, regardless of documentation held by Afghan nationals.
Pakistan, having hosted Afghan nationals for over two decades, was urged to continue protecting them, ensuring the rights of migrants, refugees, trafficking victims, and those fearing persecution, including gender-based persecution.
They called upon the international community to offer support for hosting Afghan refugees, promoting increased resettlement opportunities, and rights-based family reunification. The experts have also engaged with the Government of Pakistan on these concerns.