APRRN Statement: Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Need Safety and Security
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) urges the Government of Pakistan to act immediately to provide protection to registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Local media reports from across Pakistan highlight a recent spike in harassment, arbitrary arrest and bribery by law enforcement agencies towards Afghan refugees. In addition, during 2016 more than 300,000 refugees were forced to return to Afghanistan. They have been forced to return to live in insecure and vulnerable conditions. These challenges have been compounded by the actions of the Pakistan Government to close the border between the two countries, primarily as a result of a recent wave of terrorist attacks in the country.
The Pakistan Government has an obligation under customary international law to provide protection to registered refugees. In fact, this obligation extends to anyone within their borders that has fled their country and is unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution. The Pakistan Government must immediately direct law enforcement agencies to stop the harassment of Afghan refugees. It is also important that the Pakistan Government does not forcibly return refugees to Afghanistan. Repatriation must be voluntary and in a safe and dignified manner. The overwhelmingly majority of refugees with Pakistan’s borders are living quietely and peacefully and pose no threat to national security.
APRRN does acknowledge that Pakistan has been a generaous host to millions of refugees over many years. We also applaude the recent positive moves by the Pakistan Government including the extension of the Proof of Registration (PoR) validity until 31 December 2017. The consideration of domestic refugee legislation is also incredibly heartening.
APRRN expresses its support for the development of a multilateral and sustainable solution to the issue of Afghan refugees. However, for any regional solution to occur, it must be based on the following fundamental principles:
•Protection must be granted to Afghan refugees within Pakistan who are in need of safety;
•In accordance with customary international law, no refugee should be forced to repatriate to Afghanistan if they fear for their safety upon return; and •The rights of refugees in Pakistan must be This includes freedom of movement, ability to live without harrassment and livelihoods.
We urge the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to work in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure that repatriation only occurs with the full and informed consent of refugees. We also call upon the international community to support a regional solution for the protracted Afghan refugee situation.
While APRRN statements are prepared in consultations with APRRN members, they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Julia Mayerhofer, Interim Secretary General, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
Tel: +66 (0) 2 2526654
Mobile: +66 (0) 89 1125761