APNOR statement on forced returns of Afghan refugees in Pakistan

The Pakistani government has announced new plans to unlawfully deport Afghan refugees from the country, as part of a repatriation plan. 

APNOR is deeply concerned by this news and its implication on the safety and dignity of displaced people in Pakistan. 

In recognizing Pakistan’s role in ensuring the safety of countless displaced, we call on the government to abide by international law and its principles of non-refoulement. 

A large part of the estimated 3.7 million Afghans living in Pakistan have spent more time in the host country than their country of origin. They have contributed to their communities and respected their traditions. It would be unjust, unlawful and dangerous to force these people to yet again leave the place they call home. 

This wave of deportations is the second Phase of the ‘Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan”, which started in October 2023, under which ‘undocumented’ Afghan refugees have a 30-day deadline to leave the country, putting 1.4 million refugees at risk. There is an expected Phase 3 to be implemented in which holders of the UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) card holders will be forcibly and illegally displaced.

Pakistan does not offer sufficient mechanisms for registration and claim of asylum, and as such are not capable of meeting their international legal obligations. We call for the deployment of strategies to ensure there is a safe space for people to state their claim to international protection.

It must be stressed that Afghanistan does not currently offer a safe place for those returning, and the influx of thousands of people would only aggravate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country. 

We echo the calls of other international organisations, that regardless of legal status within Pakistan, any return to Afghanistan by displaced populations should be voluntary, safe, and dignified.

APNOR will continue to work and advocate for the endangered rights of refugees in Pakistan. We urge the international community to join us in this crucial endeavour, advocating for policies that uphold international law and protect the vulnerable.

Concretely, APNOR calls for:

  •  Non-refoulement and protection of Afghan refugees within its territory
  • Deployment of strategies to ensure effective registration of refugees and a safe space to place their claim for international protection.
  • International solidarity and responsibility sharing by supporting the Pakistani government in hosting Afghan refugees.
  • Resettlement opportunities from governments to ensure legal routes to safety for refugees in Pakistan.

Sources:

Amnesty International. (2024, April 4). Pakistan: Government must stop ignoring global calls to halt unlawful deportation of Afghan refugees. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2024/04/pakistan-government-must-halt-deportation-of-afghan-refugees/ 

APRRN. (2023). APRRN Urges Pakistan Not to Deport Afghans Seeking Safety within its Borders. Newsroom Details. https://www.aprrn.org/newsroom-detail/38/ 

The New Arab Staff & Agencies. (2024). Pakistan to launch Fresh Afghan deportations: Officials. The New Arab. https://www.newarab.com/news/pakistan-launch-fresh-afghan-deportations-officials 

MSF, S. A. (2024). MSF concerned over deportations of Afghans from Pakistan: MSF. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International. https://www.msf.org/msf-concerned-over-deportations-afghans-pakistan 

UNHCR. (2023.). UNHCR concerned at adverse effects of Pakistan orders for undocumented foreigners to leave. https://www.unhcr.org/news/unhcr-concerned-adverse-effects-pakistan-orders-undocumented-foreigners-leave UNHCR Pakistan. (n.d.). Proof of registration card (POR). https://help.unhcr.org/pakistan/proof-of-registration-card-por/

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Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR) is the only region-wide refugee-led network of refugee-led initiatives in the Asia Pacific region that is working with and for refugees. APNOR was established in 2018, on the recommendation of Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees (APSOR).

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