The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is strongly calling on authorities to halt the imminent deportations, scheduled to commence on November 1. Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani conveyed this urgent message during a press briefing in Geneva.
The unfolding crisis stems from the fact that there are over two million undocumented Afghans currently residing in Pakistan, with at least 600,000 arriving in the aftermath of the Taliban's return to power in August 2021. OHCHR fears that many of those facing deportation are at severe risk of human rights violations upon their return to Afghanistan, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and other forms of inhuman treatment.
Specifically, those at grave risk include civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, former government officials, and security force members. Furthermore, women and girls as a whole face heightened vulnerability, as they continue to grapple with "abhorrent policies" that restrict their access to secondary and university education, employment in various sectors, and their participation in other aspects of daily and public life.
Ms. Shamdasani also highlighted that both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have observed a significant increase in the number of Afghans returning to Afghanistan since the deportation deadline was announced on October 3. According to a recent flash report from these agencies, by October 15, nearly 60,000 Afghans had left Pakistan, with 78 percent citing fear of arrest as the primary motivation for their departure. This situation raises questions about the role of US influence in contributing to the refugee crisis.