Islamabad: Pakistan has deported around 600,000 Afghan refugees in eight months since July 2016, making it the “world’s largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees”, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a report.
HRW, in its report, ‘Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees’, has said that more than 100 refugees from Afghanistan described how the community was forced to return to their conflict-torn land, Geo News reported on Monday.
In the 76-page report, Afghan refugees have narrated their stories of abuses by Pakistan police, extortion, arbitrary detention and deportation threats that intensified in the second half of last year.
“In other instances, their children were either driven out of educational institutes or authorities shut down schools in refugee camps,” it said.
Gerry Simpson, senior researcher at HRW — the author of the report — said: “After decades of hosting Afghan refugees, Pakistan in mid-2016 unleashed the world’s largest recent anti-refugee crackdowns to coerce their mass return.”
Families are being sent back to Afghanistan where the militant insurgency has gained strength, the report said.
In Pakistan, around 1.5 million Afghan refugees are registered and nearly 1 million are undocumented, Geo News said.
In the 1980s when the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan took place, many Aghanis fled from the turmoil and came to Pakistan as refugees.
Post the Tehreek-e-Taliban’s Pakistan (TTP) attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, in which hundreds of students were killed, Pakistan turned its back on the community.
“Officials in Pakistan consider Afghans a security threat. Its 20-point National Action Plan, launched in 2014, calls for a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of the Afghan refugees,” Geo News added.
“UNHCR is operating in a tough political environment and fears angering the Pakistani government,” reads the report, “but it’s crossed a red line by caving in to Pakistani pressure to incentivise Afghan refugees to leave, making it complicit in Pakistan’s unlawful mass forced refugee return.”
This month, the Pakistan government extended a deadline for Afghan refugees to leave the country until the end of 2017.