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Pakistan Deporting Afghans Who Seek Asylum from Taliban - by Uzay Bulut for The Gatestone Institute - 29.12.23

"Those at particular risk are civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, former government officials and security force members, and of course women and girls as a whole, who, as a result of the abhorrent policies currently in place in Afghanistan, are banned from secondary and tertiary education, working in many sectors and other aspects of daily and public life." — UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, October 27, 2023.


"Asad and his family fled Afghanistan in 2021 when his friends and colleagues were murdered after the Taliban came to power. 'I am on several lists maintained by the Taliban and I am certain I will be killed if I go back...'" — Amnesty International, November 10, 2023.


The terrorism that Pakistan complains about comes from the Taliban in Afghanistan -- that Pakistan supported for decades -- not from the Afghan asylum seekers in Pakistan.


What Pakistan has done... is to counter terrorists that challenge its own authority while actively supporting other terrorists who challenge other governments -- particularly in India and the West.


There are no "good jihadist terrorists."


What has caused an increase in terrorism in Pakistan is not Afghan refugees trying to survive there, but Pakistan's own policies that, for decades, have empowered jihadist terrorists both domestically and abroad.


Pakistan has started the mass deportation of "unregistered" Afghans in the country. The move sends back hundreds of thousands of people who fled the Taliban when they took over in 2021 after American troops withdrew, and violates principles of refugee non-refoulement. If forcibly returned, these refugees are at risk of persecution.


Pakistan claims its mass deportations of these Afghans is due to "increased terrorism" in the country -- but it was the government of Pakistan that for decades supported the Taliban in Afghanistan. Ever since they took over the country in 2021, Afghanistan has just become a safe haven for terrorist groups.


In September, Pakistan's government announced that it would carry out mass deportations of all "unregistered foreign nationals," labeled under Pakistani law as the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan. The plan demands that all such individuals leave the country before November 1, 2023. Police also reportedly warned landlords to avoid renting homes to undocumented refugees and migrants.

 

The Associated Press reported on November 13 that in recent weeks since Pakistani authorities started arresting and deporting foreign nationals without documentation, after the November 1 deadline for migrants without legal status to leave the country voluntarily, nearly 300,000 Afghans have left Pakistan.


The Crisis Group reported:


"Although the plan purported to apply to all foreigners residing in the country illegally, it appears designed to target Afghans, millions of whom have sought refuge in Pakistan over the years. Pakistan hosts an estimated three to four million Afghan refugees and migrants, including at least 600,000 who have crossed the border since August 2021, when the Taliban seized power for a second time in Afghanistan.


Of these, 1.3 million are registered as legal refugees, holding Proof of Registration cards, while an additional 850,000 have received Afghan Citizen Cards from the Pakistani authorities, giving them some protections but not all of those afforded to registered refugees.


Some 1.7 million more Afghans are believed to be residing in the country without any documentation at all. This last figure could be a significant underestimate, as people living on the mountainous frontier are accustomed to moving back and forth across the border, often without travel papers from either state."


United Nations officials said in October they were "extremely alarmed by Pakistan's announcement that it plans to deport 'undocumented" foreign nationals' as winter approaches. The UN further expressed concerns over the rights violations of those at risk.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said:


"We believe many of those facing deportation will be at grave risk of human rights violations if returned to Afghanistan, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, cruel and other inhuman treatment.


"Those at particular risk are civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, former government officials and security force members, and of course women and girls as a whole, who, as a result of the abhorrent policies currently in place in Afghanistan, are banned from secondary and tertiary education, working in many sectors and other aspects of daily and public life."


Many Afghans have either been decades-long residents of Pakistan or were born in Pakistan. At least 600,000 left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, according to the UN. These Afghans, especially women and girls, face an uncertain future in Afghanistan under the Taliban's rule.


"The Ministry of Interior has set up 49 holding area points across the country to help these people respectfully cross the border after thorough screening," state-run Radio Pakistan reported.


According to Amnesty International, however,


"Since the expiry of the 1 November deadline imposed by the Government of Pakistan, the police have moved from registering cases under the Foreigners Act, 1946 which among other things criminalizes illegal entry into Pakistan, to directly detaining refugees deemed 'illegal' at deportation centers.


"Amnesty International has concerns about the complete lack of transparency, due process and accountability in the detentions and deportations over the last week. This has been exacerbated by increased incidents of harassment and hostility against Afghan refugees in Pakistan.


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Pakistan Deporting Afghans Who Seek Asylum from Taliban - by Uzay Bulut for The Gatestone
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Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, a research fellow for the Philos Project, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.


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