UN experts warn of potential rights violations for Afghans

Afghan refugees

ISLAMABAD: The Human Rights Council of the United Nations, through its eight Special Rapporteurs, has issued a joint cautionary statement, raising concerns about potential human rights violations faced by Afghan nationals compelled to return from Pakistan since November 1.

According to a news report by Dawn News, the experts affiliated with the ‘Special Procedures’ of the Human Rights Council, highlighted specific groups among the returning Afghans who are most susceptible to adverse effects. These include women and girls, victims of trafficking, religious and ethnic minorities, former government officials, persons with disabilities, older individuals, and other refugees and migrants.

The UN experts underscored their apprehensions regarding the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan (IFRP) implemented on November 1, 2023, emphasizing its lack of provisions for the individual assessment of irreparable harm and potential risks confronted by Afghan nationals upon their return to Afghanistan.

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In their statement issued in Geneva on Wednesday, the rapporteurs urged the Pakistani government to reconsider the plan, emphasising the need for a more comprehensive approach that considers the specific vulnerabilities of various groups among the returning population.

The Special Rapporteurs expressed concerns about the potential violation of the absolute prohibition of refoulment under customary international law. They warned that the absence of effective protection measures for Afghan nationals might expose them to severe risks, including trafficking, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, and violations of the rights of women and girls.

The experts also called on the international community to provide support for hosting Afghan refugees, proposing increased opportunities for resettlement and emphasizing rights-based family reunification. The statement indicated ongoing communication between the UN experts and the government of Pakistan regarding these concerns.

The UN experts particularly highlighted the risks faced by Afghan women and girls, pointing to the alarming pattern of systematic human rights violations and discrimination against them in Afghanistan. They expressed deep concerns about potential forced evictions of Afghan nationals in Pakistan, including reported cases of arbitrary arrests, cautioning against drawing unfounded links between refugees and migrants and terrorism risks.

“Pakistan’s hosting of Afghan nationals for more than two decades underscores the critical need for continued protection without discrimination. The human rights of all migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking, and those with ongoing fear of persecution, including gender persecution, must be ensured,” the statement said.

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