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Afghanistan: refugees sent back from Pakistan
  • Afghanistan refugees sent back from Pakistan
    Afghanistan refugees sent back from Pakistan
"Thousands of Afghan refugees are being used as political pawns to be sent back to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where their lives and physical integrity may be at risk, amid intensified human rights repression and an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. No one should be subjected to mass forced deportations, and Pakistan would do well to remember its international legal obligations, including the principle of non-refoulement." This is how Amnesty International commented on the tragedy, largely passed over in silence by this part of the world, that has been unfolding on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border for months. In fact, the government in Islamabad decided last September to expel all Afghan refugees from the country. Which, against all international convention, it effectively uses as pawns in the complex game played between Islamabad and the Afghan government. Pakistan, which runs the so-called 'Haqqani faction' within the Kabul government, seeks to force the opposing faction, closer to Iran, to come to terms. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are about 3.7 million Afghans in Pakistan. Many fled the Soviet invasion of their country in 1979, settling in Pakistan during the world's largest refugee crisis at the time. Their children and grandchildren are de facto Pakistani citizens because 'ius soli' applies in Pakistan, but the law doesn't matter to anyone: "Forty years ago I lived in a tent and now I find myself once again in a tent tent. This is the whole story of my life," said one of them. The second wave of migrants occurred in 2021, in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover of Kabul. Last Oct. 3, Islamabad declared about 1.7 million undocumented refugees illegal and ordered them to leave the country by Nov. 1 so as not to risk being forcibly evicted. When the deadline expired, police switched from registering cases under the 1946 Foreigners Law, which among other things criminalizes illegal entry into Pakistan, to directly detaining refugees deemed "illegal" in deportation centers. A total of 49 detention or "transit" centers have been established throughout Pakistan, with the possibility of creating more. These detention centers were not built under an ad hoc enacted law but actually function outside the ordinary legal system. A task force has also been formed to "seize people with fake ID cards and illegal properties built on their fake documents," while the country's national database and registration agency has been ordered to cancel all "fake ID cards" and confirm all cases with DNA testing. The United Nations estimates that more than 330,000 refugees have currently been deported or 'voluntarily' repatriated, while thousands more are in 'transitional' detention camps in miserable conditions. Without water or food, exposed to the elements or mistreatment. But that is not all. The UN has also received reports of night raids, confiscation of money, jewelry and livestock, arbitrary arrests and detention of Afghan refugees by local Pakistani police. And yet, according to Abbas Khan, Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees. The government's policy toward illegal immigrants is very clear: undocumented individuals who have invested in property or businesses in Pakistan have no legal cover for their assets because their presence in the country is illegal, and consequently their property and businesses are also illegal. Therefore, individuals are only allowed to cross the border with the clothes they are wearing and a sum of about $170 in Pakistani rupees. In Afghanistan, a real hell awaits them. Once on the other side, they are in fact transformed into refugees within their own country, a country impoverished by decades of war and conflict and now grappling with a severe food and employment crisis, a country where 15 of its 40 million people do not know where their next meal will come from. The Taliban administration has set up two refugee camps along the border, in Torkham and Spin Boldak, to theoretically facilitate the refugees' relocation to their home towns and villages. In practice, people remain in the camps for weeks without knowing where or how to go. The U.N. Human Rights Commission also called on Pakistani authorities to ensure protection for people who "may suffer persecution, torture, ill-treatment or other irreparable harm" in Afghanistan: there are more than two hundred journalists whose lives are at risk, as well as thousands of musicians, actors, homosexuals, dissidents and, of course, women. The thousands of girls and children who will be denied the right to education, the thousands of women who will be denied the right to walk in a public park, to travel alone, to work, to have a bank account. Thousands of people who will be denied the right to live a free and dignified life, who, in the most extreme cases will be denied the right to life tout court and, what is worse, to the utter indifference of the world and the international press.