Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rights group says Pakistan has 'forced' mass Afghan refugee returns

The number of Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan, already at the highest level in years, may increase this year if Pakistan maintains its forceful policies, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

Last year, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees left Pakistan, a 12-year-high that the rights group called the "world's largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent times".

Aid workers and Afghan officials worry that the returnees are coming back to a country in conflict and economic crisis, led by a government already struggling to maintain basic living standards.

Pakistan has provided millions of Afghans with refuge for decades, and police and officials deny reports that they are targeting Afghans, though officials have said they should go home.
Amid recent political tension between the uneasy neighbors, aid organizations have raised concerns over the treatment of Afghans in Pakistan.
HRW senior researcher Patricia Gossman told Reuters her group was highlighting the issue ahead of a meeting this week between Afghan, Pakistani, and U.N. officials, which is expected to set the stage for this year's refugee policies.
"We want to make sure that what happened last fall does not repeat," Gossman said, referring to what her group described as "a toxic combination of deportation threats and police abuses" of Afghans in Pakistan last year.
In the second half of 2016, Pakistan "pushed out" nearly 365,000 of the country's 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees, as well as just over 200,000 of the estimated 1 million undocumented Afghans in Pakistan, the rights group said.
"These practices are tantamount to forcing people across the border ... and that's why we say it's unlawful," Gossman said.
The group also criticized the United Nations for what its investigators saw as a failure to ensure that Afghan refugees are truly returning voluntarily, as called for under international law.- Read More, Reuters
Rights group says Pakistan has 'forced' mass Afghan refugee returns


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