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HomePakistanUN agencies offer 'support' for registering, managing Afghans | The Express Tribune

UN agencies offer ‘support’ for registering, managing Afghans | The Express Tribune

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) – the UN’s migration agency– offered their support to Pakistan on Saturday in “developing a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism to register and manage Afghan nationals, including those who may be in need of international protection”.

While appreciating Pakistan’s generous hospitality towards Afghan nationals for over four decades despite challenges, the international refugee and migration agencies appealed to the Government of Pakistan to consider the human rights violations that may occur in their efforts for “forced repatriation of Afghan nationals” including the separation of families and deportation of minors.

The UN agencies released a joint statement after Pakistan announced plans to deport around 1.75 million ‘illegal’ and undocumented Afghan immigrants back to their home country.

The statement highlighted the plight of human rights challenges in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls. “Such plans would have serious implications for all who have been forced to leave the country and may face serious protection risks upon return,” read the press release, stating that the Taliban-ruled country was facing a humanitarian crisis already.

However, the UNHCR and IOM acknowledged Pakistan’s government’s sovereign prerogative over domestic policies, its need to manage populations on its territory, and its obligations to ensure public safety and security.

Read Crackdown rattles Afghans in Pakistan

The UN agencies urged Pakistan to protect all vulnerable Afghans who have sought safety in the country and could be at imminent risk if forced to return.

In the end, the UNHCR and IOM called for Pakistan’s government to ensure that all return is “voluntary, safe and dignified — without any pressure, to ensure protection for those seeking safety”. They added that the agencies will continue to call on “all countries to suspend forcible returns of Afghan nationals”.

‘Illegal’ immigrants given till Nov 1 to leave

On Thursday, the deportation of Afghan citizens living illegally in Pakistan kicked off as 16 trucks carrying 20 families reached the Torkham border.

Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced earlier in the week that all foreign nationals living illegally in the country, including millions of Afghans, have been given until November 1 to leave voluntarily or face deportation.

Read more ‘Nothing out there for us’: Afghan refugees begin reluctant exodus after eviction order

The measures, including the introduction of the “one document regime” for Afghanistan, were part of a raft of measures approved by the civil and military leadership to deal with rising terrorist incidents.

Although the government did not mention any country by name, it is evident that the move is aimed at hundreds and thousands of Afghans living in Pakistan illegally. According to official estimates, as many as 1.1 million Afghans have been residing in the country illegally. Neither do they have any documents, nor any other legal means to stay in the country.

On Friday, the Interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani defended the government’s decision to deport all illegal immigrants, including Afghans, from the country on Friday and termed the decision “in line with international practice”.

Jilani further said no other country allows illegal immigrants like Pakistan has in the past forty years.

However, the ruling Taliban government of Afghanistan termed Islamabad’s decision to expel undocumented Afghan nationals as “unacceptable” and denied Afghan refugees’ involvement in the security issues faced by Pakistan.

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