[JURIST] Pakistani authorities have driven nearly 600,000 Afghan refugees back into Afghanistan since July 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said in a report [text] Monday. HRW claims that among those being forced out of the country are 365,000 lawfully registered refugees. HRW also alleges that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official website] is complicit in what it calls “the world’s largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent times.” HRW argues that Pakistani police have been using extortion techniques to force Afghan refugees out of the limited jobs available to them while Pakistani landlords have dramatically increased the cost of rent for Afghan refugees and Pakistani officials pressed UNHCR to increase its cash grant to returnees from US $200 to US $400 per person to coerce the refugees to return home. The report states:
Under its mandate, UNHCR may “facilitate” voluntary refugee repatriation, even where UNHCR does not consider that it is safe for most refugees to return or that their return amounts to a “durable solution.” UNHCR may only “promote” large-scale refugee repatriation when, among other things, UNHCR has formally concluded there is an overall general improvement in the refugees’ country of origin so that they can return in “safety and dignity” and rebuild their lives there in a “durable” manner. Absent reintegration into the local community, voluntary repatriation is not a durable solution. In both cases—facilitation or promotion—UNHCR must be convinced that refugees are in fact returning voluntarily before it supports their repatriation.
HRW states that conditions in Afghanistan have not improved to the standard necessary for the UNHCR to facilitate the repatriation of Afghan refugees.
The rights of refugee and migrant populations has emerged as one of the most significant humanitarian issues around the world. Last month the Slovenian parliament passed amendments to the Aliens Act [JURIST report] to enact emergency measures to deny refugees entry into the country and to expel those whom did not have their asylum claims properly assessed. Also last month US President Donald Trump issued [JURIST report] an executive order restricting access to the US for refugees and visa holders from seven countries. The order also indefinitely suspends the entry into the US of Syrian refugees. The order further suspended admission of refugees from any country for 120 days while the administration is reviewing the visa program and limited the number of possible refugees for 2017 to 50,000. In November experts questioned humanitarian conditions at Grecian migrant camps when a 66-year-old woman and six-year-old boy died [JURIST report] in a camp fire. In April several aid organizations urged [JURIST report] EU leaders to stop deportations of migrants from Greece to Turkey and to stop detaining asylum seekers. Also in April Human Rights Watch reported [JURIST report] that the first deportation of 66 people from the Greek island of Chios to Turkey was “riddled with an array of irregularities.” In April former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged [JURIST report] world leaders to accept more refugees and to combat the growing international anti-refugee sentiments. That same month, an independent UN human rights expert encouraged EU leaders to remain steadfast [JURIST report] in their obligations to handle the recent influx of migrants to the EU.