Deportations by Pakistan, Iran leave forcibly displaced Afghans vulnerable

The World Refugee & Migration Council deplores ongoing deportations of Afghans and others by the Governments of Pakistan and Iran. Already more than 400,000 Afghans have been forced to leave Pakistan, and more than a million have been deported by Iran this year.

Expulsion puts many of these individuals at grave personal risk. Many who have spent decades living in Pakistan also have no apparent means of livelihood or support if they are forcibly returned. And many of the returnees will likely become internally displaced persons (IDPs) in a country where there were already 6.6 million internally displaced at the end of 2022.

Pakistan is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, under which states have an obligation to consider the asylum claims of those arriving on their territories and an obligation not to practise refoulement, that is, the returning of refugees to countries where their lives are in danger. 

However, the principle of nonrefoulement has become customary international law for all states, whether or not they have signed the 1951 Convention, and Pakistan’s actions violate these principles. 

As Ravina Shamdasani, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warns, “many of those facing deportation will be at grave risk of human rights violations if returned to Afghanistan, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, cruel and other inhuman treatment.” Women and girls, civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and former government officials are likely to be those who suffer the most at the hands of the authoritarian governments who rule their home countries. Many who have already left Pakistan or may soon be deported have never lived in Afghanistan and have no family members still in the country.

We urge all States to pressure the governments of Pakistan and Iran to halt deportations and allow those with visa applications to other countries, including Canada, to remain until those are processed and permit those who left to return to their homes in Pakistan.

Image: UNHCR