UN Agencies Urge Pakistan to Rethink Afghan Refugee Returns Amid Concerns


In light of the ongoing “severe humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan, the United Nations (UN) has voiced its concerns regarding the country’s escalating human rights issues, especially those faced by women and girls. This comes as Pakistan introduces new plans, which the UN warns may have “serious implications” for the Afghan nationals who’ve been compelled to exit their homeland.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) jointly expressed their concerns in a recent statement, suggesting that these new directives could inadvertently cause significant protection risks for returning Afghans. Both agencies caution that the mandated return of Afghan nationals may lead to numerous human rights breaches, including but not limited to the unfortunate separation of families and the unwarranted deportation of underage individuals.

The ongoing situation brings into focus Pakistan’s noteworthy role as one of the world’s preeminent refugee-hosting nations. As per the latest UNHCR data from August, the country offers refuge to approximately 1.3 million registered individuals who were compelled to abandon their homes, with a staggering 99% of these being Afghan natives.

Amidst these unfolding events, the two UN agencies have once again emphasized their call to all nations worldwide. They urge these countries to “suspend forcible returns of Afghan nationals”. Furthermore, they champion the cause that any future repatriations to Afghanistan should be carried out ensuring the safety, dignity, and voluntariness of the individuals involved.

While acknowledging Pakistan’s indisputable right over its domestic policies, as well as its responsibility to ensure public safety and manage its resident population, the UN bodies took a moment to commend their long-standing, fruitful collaboration with the Pakistani government.

In a concluding note, the joint statement from UNHCR and IOM recognized and lauded Pakistan’s unwavering hospitality towards Afghan nationals that has spanned over four decades. Despite the myriad challenges faced during this period, Pakistan’s commitment has been commendable. The agencies also highlighted their readiness to offer continued assistance, expressing their intent to “support in developing a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism to register and manage Afghan nationals”. This includes aiding those who might be in immediate need of international protection.