Amnesty International (AI), an international human rights organization, urged Pakistan’s government on Tuesday to cease their harassment and arbitrary arrests of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
A multitude of Afghans have fled to Pakistan in fear of persecution after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021. They fled to Pakistan with the aim of building new lives in the country or continuing onto a third country via Pakistan. Shortly after the takeover, Pakistan provided free movement for those fleeing Afghanistan, as countries like Iran required travel documents and visas to enter. However, according to AI, since then Pakistan’s government has subjected Afghan refugees to “waves of arbitrary detentions, arrests, and the threat of deportation.”
In a May 2022 JURIST interview Najla Raheel, an Afghan attorney, described the difficulty and fear which drove many to flee Afghanistan around the time the Taliban took over. In Tuesday’s statement, an Afghan refugee previously employed by the Ministry of Interior in Afghanistan told AI that the Pakistani police raided his home and the homes of other Afghans in Islamabad, Pakistan. He stated that the Pakistani police also detained about 20 other Afghans and “took our passports and wallets from us, and then searched our bodies multiple times. They detained even those of us that had valid visas and were in the country legally.”
In calling on the UN High Commission for Refugees, Pakistan and third countries offering Afghans relocation schemes to expedite the registration and issuance of visas, AI’s Deputy Regional Director for South Asia Dinushika Dissanayake stated, “[It] is deeply concerning that the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is not receiving due international attention….Their ambiguous legal status and arduous processes for asylum or third country relocation have made them even more vulnerable.”
While countries such as the US, Germany and Canada have offered Afghans with relocation schemes, visas cannot be issued in Afghanistan due to a lack of diplomatic representation in the country. In addition, Pakistani authorities often rely on the Foreigners Act, 1946 to detain Afghans with valid documents.
This is not the first time that Pakistan has been urged to stop arresting Afghans. Recently on June 7, Afghanistan’s embassy in Islamabad called on Pakistan to cease its arrests of Afghan refugees.