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Pakistan’s Forced Repatriation of Afghan Refugees

An Afghan girl stands by the doorway of her family's house in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan. An Afghan girl stands by the doorway of her family's house in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan. © 2014 Associated Press

30 September 2016
More than 2.6 million Afghan refugees to be repatriated back to Afghanistan by the end of 2016

On 29 June 2016, the Pakistani government announced that they would extend registered Afghan refugees’ Proof of Residency (PoR) cards for six months, expiring in December 2016. This means that more than 2.6 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan face forced repatriation to Afghanistan despite many refugees not being born there and never having lived there, while others will be forced to return to reprisals from the extremists from whom they fled. On 1 July 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the legal residency status of Afghan refugees should be extended at least until 31 December 2017 to reduce rights violations.

Pakistan has been home to over three million Afghan refugees since the early 1980s during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  Throughout the years the Pakistani government has set and extended deadlines for the refugees to leave. They have declared that this year’s December deadline is final as a matter of national security. This decision has proven violent as it encourages law enforcement officers to use abusive actions and heighten the fears of Afghan refugees.

Since July this year, more than 100,000 Afghan refugees have already been repatriated from Pakistan. This is the highest number of people returning to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime after the US invasion in 2001. Only 7,000 refugees crossed the border to Afghanistan within the first six months of this year. However, most preferred to stay in Pakistan due to the foreseen violence in Afghanistan, despite enduring discrimination and violence.

“Pakistani authorities are increasingly committing abuses against Afghan refugees that are triggering a mass refugee return,” said Patricia Gossman at HRW. “The government should rein in its abusive security forces and ensure the refugees secure status and protection.”

The Afghan government has expressed their intent on welcoming back the refugees and have started welfare programs to facilitate the repatriation process. Yet, they are faced with various challenges such as lack of accommodation and providing financial support. One refugee that recently returned to Afghanistan said that most of the refugees do not have a place to live and that “there has been no major support from the Afghan government.” The only financial support registered refugees receive is from the UNHCR, and it is still not enough.


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