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UN experts call for protection of Afghan nationals in Pakistan

06 December 2023

GENEVA (6 December 2023) – Afghan nationals forced to leave Pakistan since 1 November face grave risk of human rights violations upon return, UN experts* warned today.

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”.

“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 said.

“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.

They warned that the Plan would have a grave impact on women and girls, given the pattern of large-scale systematic human rights violations and discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan, amounting to gender persecution.

“Women and girls deported to Afghanistan risk being subjected to child and forced marriage, trafficking in persons, and denial of the rights to education, to work, and to freedom of movement and equal protection of the law,” the experts said.

“We are deeply concerned at allegations of forced evictions of Afghan nationals in Pakistan by landlords,” the experts stated. They also expressed concern at reported cases of arbitrary arrests of Afghan nationals in Pakistan, including children, since the beginning of 2023, warning that unsubstantiated linkages must not be drawn between the presence of refugees and migrants, and risks of terrorism.

“The regulation of migration is subject to international law, including the principle of non-refoulement and non-discrimination,” the experts recalled.

“Assistance and protection must be ensured, including effective access to the right to seek and enjoy asylum, without discrimination and regardless of the documentation held by Afghan nationals,” the experts said.

“Pakistan has hosted Afghan nationals for more than two decades. It is critical now, that Afghan nationals continue to receive protection, without discrimination, and that the human rights of all migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking, and all those with continuing fear of persecution, including gender persecution, are ensured,” the experts said.

They urged the international community to provide support for the hosting of Afghan refugees, including increased opportunities for resettlement, and rights-based family reunification.

The experts have been in contact with the Government of Pakistan about these concerns.

ENDS

The experts: Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children;Richard Bennett, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in AfghanistanMs. Nazila GhaneaSpecial Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ben SaulSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism;; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura NyirinkindiWorking group on discrimination against women and girls; Gehad Madi, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing

The Special Rapporteurs 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 that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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