Pakistan forcibly removing Afghan refugees

Pakistani authorities have driven nearly 600,000 Afghan refugees back into Afghanistan since July 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released Feb. 13. HRW claims that among those forced out of the country were 365,000 of Pakistan's 1.5 million lawfully registered Afgahn refugees. HRW also alleges that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is complicit in what it calls "the world's largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent times." HRW charges that Pakistani police have been using extortion to deprive Afghan refugees of much the limited income available to them, while Pakistani landlords have dramatically increased the cost of rent for Afghan refugees. The UNHCR meanwhile increased its cash grant to returnees from $200 to $400 per person to coerce the refugees to return home under cover of "voluntary repatriation."

The report states:

Under its mandate, UNHCR may "facilitate" voluntary refugee repatriation, even where UNHCR does not consider that it is safe for most refugees to return or that their return amounts to a "durable solution." UNHCR may only "promote" large-scale refugee repatriation when, among other things, UNHCR has formally concluded there is an overall general improvement in the refugees' country of origin so that they can return in "safety and dignity" and rebuild their lives there in a "durable" manner. Absent reintegration into the local community, voluntary repatriation is not a durable solution. In both cases—facilitation or promotion—UNHCR must be convinced that refugees are in fact returning voluntarily before it supports their repatriation.

HRW states that conditions in Afghanistan have not improved to the standard necessary for the UNHCR to facilitate the repatriation of Afghan refugees.

From Jurist, Feb. 13. Used with permission.