Pakistan’s recent deportation drive targeting Afghan refugees has sparked a “sense of panic” among undocumented individuals residing in the country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Pakistani government’s announcement to expel over a million undocumented refugees, primarily Afghans, has resulted in widespread distress and anxiety within the Afghan refugee communities.
Despite assurances that documented refugees would be exempt from the deportation campaign, the UNHCR has reported that even those with proper documentation are being targeted. The subsequent actions of local authorities, including reports of intimidation and evictions, have further exacerbated the already tense situation.
Philippa Candle, the UNHCR’s representative in Pakistan, emphasized the importance of voluntary repatriation and urged the Pakistani government to identify vulnerable individuals in need of international protection. While Pakistani officials maintain that harassment of documented refugees is rare and that they are taking action against perpetrators, the search operation to verify refugee status continues in various cities.
In Karachi, home to a significant number of Afghan refugees, police conducted door-to-door searches in refugee settlements, accompanied by officials from the national database authority. Authorities requested identification from residents, which was cross-checked using electronic tablets. While some residents reluctantly complied, there were no reports of resistance or the use of force during the searches. Those whose documents checked out had their identification returned.
Many Afghans have gone into hiding within Pakistan, fearing deportation and expressing concerns for their safety if forced to return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The sudden influx of hundreds of thousands of Afghans back into the country has created a fresh crisis, as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) highlighted. With over six million internally displaced people in Afghanistan and winter approaching, the returnees are in desperate need of aid and shelter.
The situation remains fluid, with uncertainty surrounding the future of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. While the deportation campaign aims to address concerns of national security, it is crucial to recognize and protect the rights and welfare of vulnerable individuals who may face significant challenges upon their return to Afghanistan.
1. What is the current deportation drive in Pakistan targeting?
The deportation drive in Pakistan is primarily targeting undocumented Afghan refugees.
2. Are documented refugees exempt from the deportation campaign?
Although Pakistan initially stated that documented refugees would be exempt, the UNHCR has reported that even those with proper documentation are being targeted.
3. How have Afghan refugee communities in Pakistan responded to the deportation campaign?
The deportation campaign has created a “sense of panic” among Afghan refugee communities in Pakistan, leading many individuals to go into hiding out of fear for their safety if forced to return to Afghanistan.
4. What challenges do Afghan returnees face upon their arrival in Afghanistan?
Afghans returning from Pakistan face a precarious and uncertain future, as the country is already grappling with over six million internally displaced people. The sudden influx of returnees has created a fresh crisis, demanding urgent aid and shelter.
– United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: [www.unhcr.org](www.unhcr.org)
– International Organization for Migration: [www.iom.int](www.iom.int)