UNHCR raises alarm over Afghans’ exit order

Published November 22, 2023
POLICE officials check documents of residents during a crackdown on illegal immigrants in a settlement in Karachi, on Tuesday.—Online
POLICE officials check documents of residents during a crackdown on illegal immigrants in a settlement in Karachi, on Tuesday.—Online

ISLAMABAD: The UN Refugee Agency, has rai­sed concerns over Pakis­t­an’s announcement for undocumented foreigners to leave, as the orders have adversely affected Afghan nationals including registered refugees and others with valid documents.

UNHCR Represen­tat­ive in Pakistan Philippa Candler told a press briefing at UN European headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday that mass arrivals back to Afghanistan were adding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, as winter temperatures in some locations dip to as low as -4°C.

Since Pakistan’s anno­u­ncement of the repatriation plan on October 3, an estimated 374,000 people have returned to Afghan­istan. “We are witnessing an exponential increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Afghans in Pakistan. Many Afghan returnees are vulnerable, including women and children who could lose their lives in a harsh winter if left without adequate shelter,” the official said.

He explained that the Afghans interviewed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan said they were leaving in a rush, fearing arrest and detention.

All registered Afghan refugees are exempt from the government’s orders, but the announcement and follow-up actions created a sense of panic.

“We have been reiterating our call that any return to Afghanistan should be voluntary, safe and dignified, irrespective of legal status in Pakistan. We have urged the Government of Pakistan to put in place a screening mechanism to identify individuals in need of international protection,” the UNHCR official said.

Published in Dawn, November 22th, 2023

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