The Return of Afghan Nationals: An Update

The Return of Afghan Nationals: An Update
Photo Source: Human Rights Watch


Angelique van der Burgh

Pakistan Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence

The Pakistani government announced a “crackdown” on Afghan refugees in August 2023, giving them until the 1st of November to either leave Pakistan or face deportation [1]. Around 200,000 Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan since August 2023. However, numerous refugees are not motivated to return to Afghanistan for fear of life under the Taliban government [1]. The Taliban government puts the human rights of women girls, minorities, and journalists at serious risk [2]. However, staying in Pakistan illegally is also not an option as the Pakistani government attempts to identify, arrest, and urge Afghan refugees to return to Afghanistan. The UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration criticize Pakistan as they round up refugees for deportation [2]. In addition, there have been reports of Pakistani police arresting and detaining refugees with legal status as refugees in the state [2]. Thus, Afghan refugees are faced with two impossible options; life under the Taliban regime or illegally residing in Pakistan and facing the grave consequences for doing so. 

Despite this grave policy, the Pakistani government has announced that it will not take action against individuals with Proof of Registration cards, provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with Afghan Citizen Cards, with valid visas, or those awaiting resettlement [3]. Recently, the United Kingdom has arranged flights for those awaiting relocation from Pakistan to the UK. However, since 2021, the visas of those to be relocated have expired and the UK fears they will be forcefully returned to Afghanistan. The international community is obliged to keep an eye on the status of Afghan refugees and the actions the Pakistani government is taking to return these refugees. 

Sources and further readings:

[1]Afghan refugees forced to leave Pakistan say they have nothing - BBC News

[2]‘We’re so fearful’: Pakistan rounds up Afghan refugees for deportation | Global development | The Guardian


[4] UK to charter flights for Afghan refugees stuck in Pakistan - BBC News