World Neighbours 13 Feb 2017 Rights group slams P ...

Rights group slams Pakistan for forcing exodus of Afghan refugees

PTI
Published Feb 13, 2017, 6:28 pm IST
Updated Feb 13, 2017, 6:29 pm IST
The group’s findings suggested that Pakistani pressure on Afghan refugees left many of them with no choice but to leave Pakistan last year.
Afghan refugee families wait for their turn to be registered, outside the government registration office in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Photo: AP)
 Afghan refugee families wait for their turn to be registered, outside the government registration office in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Photo: AP)

Islamabad: Hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees were forced to leave Pakistan last year due to the country's high-handed policies and harassment, a leading rights group said on Monday terming it as the world's largest unlawful forced exodus of refugees in recent times.

In a damning report, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked Pakistan government to end police abuse and other measures against refugees.

 

In the report titled Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees, the HRW called on the government to avoid recreating conditions in 2017 that coerced the involuntary return of refugees to Afghanistan last year.

The HRW conducted 115 interviews with refugee returnees in Afghanistan and refugees and undocumented Afghans in Pakistan. The findings suggested that Pakistani pressure on Afghan refugees left many of them with no choice but to leave Pakistan last year.

The rights group also holds the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) complicit in the "coerced return" of Afghan refugees, and calls on it to "speak out as necessary and challenge any repeat in 2017 of the appalling and unlawful pressure Pakistan placed on Afghans in 2016, that coerced many to return to danger and destitution in Afghanistan in such massive numbers."

 

In the second half of the last year, 365,000 of the 1.5 million registered refugees were "pushed out by a toxic combination of deportation threats and police abuses."

About 200,000 of the one million undocumented Afghan refugees in Pakistan returned to their country over the same period.

According to the report, Pakistan has hosted over a million Afghan refugees for most of the last 40 years.

Pakistani authorities, however, made it clear in public statements that they would like to see similar numbers of refugees return to Afghanistan in 2017, the HRW said.

 

The statements came at a time the Afghan conflict has killed and wounded more civilians than at any other time since 2009, displaced at least 1.5 million people and left a third of the population destitute, according to the HRW.

There have been no new Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan since 2007 despite lack of meaningful improvement in human rights conditions in Afghanistan.

Additionally, the UNHCR lacks the capacity to register and process the claims of tens of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.

The UNHCR in December 2016 warned that the massive number of returns could "develop into a major humanitarian crisis".

 

The report surfaced when Pakistan last week extended the stay of Afghan refugees till end of year.

There are about 1.5 million registered and an equal number of unregistered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan since 1980s.

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