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UN Special Rapporteurs urge Pakistan to stop planned mass deportation of Afghans

17 October 2023

GENEVA (17 October 2023) – Pakistan should immediately cancel plans to deport 1.4 million Afghan nationals back to their country, UN experts* said today.

The Government of Pakistan, which has hosted millions of Afghans for decades, recently announced that all “undocumented” foreign nationals must leave the country by 1 November or face deportation to their countries of origin.

These plans would impact in particular over 1.4 million Afghan nationals, including many who fled to Pakistan seeking safety and protection due to serious human rights concerns and a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

The experts are troubled about the risk of refoulement of Afghan nationals to Afghanistan, including many families, women and children, as many of them would be at risk of irreparable harm, including serious human rights violations and abuses in their home country.

“We urge Pakistan to uphold the absolute and non-derogable principle of non-refoulement and prevent collective expulsion and forced return,” the experts said.

“The lack of domestic asylum laws and procedures does not absolve States of their obligations to uphold the principle of non-refoulement under international human rights and customary law,” they said. The prohibition of refoulement is explicitly included in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Pakistan is a State party.

A group of UN experts urged Pakistan to halt deportations of Afghan nationals following the Taliban takeover, until the circumstances and human rights situation in Afghanistan allow for safe and dignified returns in a letter dated 23 December 2021.

“Pakistan should stop all forced returns and continue to host Afghan nationals who fled for safety,” the experts said. “The government must also ensure their full access to procedures where their individual human rights protection needs and their need for effective protection in line with international human rights and refugee standards, are fully assessed," they said.

“We are also concerned by reports that Afghans living in Pakistan have been subjected to arrests, exploitation and undignified treatment, including since Pakistan announced its repatriation plans.”

“Priority should be given to those with heightened protection needs; Afghan women, girls, the elderly, as well as former Afghan government officials and security personnel, human rights defenders, other civil society activists and media workers who may have a well-founded fear of persecution based on gender, religious, or ethnic grounds deserve particular attention,” they said.

“We appreciate Pakistan’s hosting of Afghan nationals over many years, noting that they also make a positive contribution to Pakistan, and request the international community and Member States to continue to facilitate the safe resettlement of Afghans at risk in other countries, and ensure their protection.”

The experts urged Pakistan to continue its collaboration with relevant UN entities to ensure protection for those seeking safety in the country.

Mr. Felipe González Morales Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Richard Bennett, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences;

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For additional information and media requests please contact Ms. Yiyao Zhang ([email protected]) and Ms. Nouf Al Anezi ([email protected]).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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