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Pakistan's Domestic Laws and Policies
Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees since the 1970s. Since that time, the government has engaged in sporadic efforts to register refugees and to provide some legal protection. In the early 1980s refugee families were issued passbooks.82 The passbooks entitled refugees to receive assistance, and they were also used as identity documents. On a sporadic basis for a few years thereafter, the government of Pakistan issued passbooks to newly arriving refugees for assistance purposes only. The passbooks did not provide identification for the refugees, and as such, provided no legal protection.83 Outside of these isolated cases, throughout the past decade, and contrary to international standards including ExCom Conclusion No. 91, the majority of Afghan refugees in Pakistan have not been registered, granted legal status, or issued identity documents. In addition, starting from late 1999 the government refused to consider newly arriving Afghans as prima facie refugees.84

Pakistan officially closed its border with Afghanistan in November 2000, citing an inability to absorb the 30,000 refugees who had arrived in the previous two months and the thousands more then expected to arrive.  In January 2001, the governor of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and thereafter the federal government, issued public orders empowering the police to detain and deport newly arrived Afghans in the NWFP and all undocumented Afghans already in Pakistan.  Those new arrivals who were not detained or deported were placed in new Jalozai camp, where living conditions were already deplorable.  The Pakistani authorities refused to allow UNHCR to register new arrivals in new Jalozai camp in order to determine whether they were in need of refugee protection.85  Without registration, assistance programs were also stymied, since the registration of refugees establishes accurate numbers and a system of documentation for the distribution of food and non-food items.

There are more than one hundred and fifty refugee camps inside Pakistan, the majority of which are located around Peshawar and north along the Afghanistan border in the NWFP; others are clustered around Quetta in Baluchistan province. Refugees arriving during the U.S.-led bombing campaign and earlier in 2001 mostly went to new Jalozai camp in NWFP, some thirty-five kilometers east of Peshawar. Jalozai has long been a destination for Afghan refugees, and the large number (approximately 80,000 refugees) that were already there made it difficult to accommodate the new arrivals.86 Other camps to which newly arrived refugees have gone include Shamshatoo and Nasirbagh, on the outskirts of Peshawar. They already housed tens of thousands of refugees. In Baluchistan, refugees are located nearer to the border crossing point at Chaman in a small staging camp at Killi Faizo, and in Roghani and Tor Tangi camps run by UNHCR, as well as at another smaller camp run by authorities of the United Arab Emirates. There are also several pockets of Afghan "urban refugees" living outside of these official camps in settlements in urban centers such as Peshawar, Quetta, Islamabad, and Karachi.

The government authorities responsible for promulgating laws and policies affecting refugees in these camps and in urban areas often employ contradictory policies, exacerbating the already hostile environment for refugees. For example, the governor of the NWFP, Iftikhar Hussain Shah, has been openly hostile to the presence of the refugees, while the governor of Baluchistan has been somewhat more tolerant and cooperative with the federal government's policies. Both of these local authorities are expected to coordinate their policies with the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), and other federal government departments, though the coordination between the federal government and the provincial governments is often lacking. These layers of government are further complicated by the fact that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are located within the NWFP, but have a semi-autonomous legal status with the federal government. Therefore, there are separate tribal leaders and security personnel located in FATA who are not legally obliged to coordinate their policies with one-another, much less with the governor of NWFP or with Pakistan's federal government.

Pakistan's federal domestic laws make no specific provision for refugees. In fact, the laws actually undermine the concept of legal protection. The Foreigners Order of October 1951, promulgated pursuant to the Foreigners Act of 1946, gives the power to grant or refuse permission to enter Pakistan to civil authorities at Pakistan's border. Under the Foreigners Order, foreigners not in possession of a passport or visa valid for Pakistan, or those who have not been exempted from the possession of a passport or visa, can be refused leave to enter. There are no specific provisions providing for the granting of entry to asylum-seekers or refugees. The refusal of entry to asylum seekers by the Pakistani authorities undermines the right to seek asylum, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and customary international law as well as numerous Conclusions of UNHCR's ExCom.87 The Foreigners Order also allows civil authorities to restrict the movements and place of residence of foreigners inside Pakistan, as long as these are made in writing.88 Other provisions allow for the arrest and detention of undocumented foreigners.89

In August 2001, there were signs of improvement. The government of Pakistan was motivated to change its policy toward Afghan refugees because of its desire to move them out of the camps in which they were then living. In particular, the government focused on moving refugees from new Jalozai camp, because of land disputes and negative press accounts describing the squalor there; and to close Nasirbagh camp completely because of a real estate development project planned for its location.
The government therefore entered negotiations with UNHCR. The resulting agreement contained both the relocation component and a legal protection component; this latter aspect was to be achieved through screening interviews. Under the agreement, thirty UNHCR and government teams were to interview an estimated 180,000 Afghans in the NWFP, focusing mostly on new Jalozai, Nasirbagh and Shamshatoo camps, to determine which one of three categories the Afghans fell into.
The first category encompassed all who would be afforded continued international refugee protection in Pakistan. Under the definitions selected for this first category, refugee protection was to be afforded to:

any person who is outside his/her country of origin and who is unwilling or unable to return there or to avail him/herself of its protection because of (i) a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; or (ii) a threat to life or security as a result of armed conflict and other forms of widespread violence which seriously disturb the public order.90

These criteria generally adhered to international standards, and in fact represented a potentially marked improvement for the legal protection of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The criteria mirror the Refugee Convention's definition of a refugee,91 and they also reflect elaboration of the refugee definition in regional instruments such as the Organization of African Unity's 1969 Refugee Convention, which states that the term refugee shall apply to people compelled to seek refuge in another country, "owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of [the] country of origin."92
The second category included those who did not meet the criteria set out above, but who were considered to be particularly "vulnerable," such as women heads of household, the elderly, unaccompanied children, and others. This second category would be given temporary protection in Pakistan.  The third category included all Afghans found not to be in need of refugee protection. This third group would be returned to Afghanistan.

Under the relocation aspect of the program, refugees in need of international protection (category one) and some of those found to be particularly vulnerable (category two) were to be relocated to new Shamshatoo camp, and to other camps located elsewhere in the NWFP. It was not finally decided what would happen with those vulnerable refugees who would be put further at risk if they were moved to a new camp. The third category would be deported from Pakistan to Afghanistan. This would achieve the government's goals of reducing overcrowding in new Jalozai, avoiding ongoing disputes with the landowner, and clearing Nasirbagh for the planned real estate development.

Although not perfect, the agreement provided for improvements in protection for Afghan refugees; however, these were soon lost. UNHCR and the government of Pakistan began screening in mid-August but stopped on August 28, when Pakistan forcibly returned about one hundred and fifty Afghan refugees who had not yet been assessed under the screening program. Yusuf Hasan, UNHCR's spokesman in Islamabad told the Associated Press that the returns were "a clear breach of the August 2 Agreement."93 Reports indicated that the returned Afghans included refugees from Jalozai camp and some unaccompanied children.94 During the ensuing dispute between the government and UNHCR, screening was halted. It started up again on September 3 and lasted for eight more days until the September 11 attacks on the United States.

With the post-September 11 arrival of large numbers of Afghans to Pakistan, the full screening program was not re-instated. Instead, the government of Pakistan maintained its interest in relocating the refugees-a policy goal that re-surfaced in a new initiative in November, 2001.95

Crossing the Border into Pakistan
Pakistan first closed its borders to prevent Afghans from entering in November 2000,96 at a time when the local authorities of the NWFP were publicly expressing their displeasure with the presence of the Afghan refugees. Since then the government has repeatedly stated that it closed its borders to fleeing Afghans because of security concerns.97  In light of the fears that members of the al-Qaeda organization or members of the Taliban armed forces might try to cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan,98 Pakistan's security concerns are legitimate.  However, international refugee law includes provisions for screening and excluding persons who pose a threat to national security and who are not entitled to international refugee protection.  International refugee standards also provide for the separation of armed individuals and those who have not genuinely and permanently renounced their military activities from civilian refugees, in order to maintain the civilian and humanitarian nature of refugee camps and asylum.  These provisions must be applied in a fair, non-discriminatory manner with full procedural guarantees and international monitoring. 

Pakistan's desire to cooperate with the international coalition against terrorism was also a factor influencing the border closure policy. In the lead-up to the U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan, the United States requested Pakistan to keep its borders closed,99 despite the anticipated need for fleeing Afghans to seek safety in neighboring countries and the legal standards allowing for separation of armed individuals or those engaged in military activities from civilian refugees. The border closures undermined the right to seek asylum, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and customary international law. Also as a result of the policy, the Pakistani Frontier Corps personnel and authorities in FATA were officially empowered to impose fines on people who were stopped while crossing. These fines are usually beyond the means of Afghans, who often flee with no money at all.

Inside Afghanistan, Taliban forces or bandits at checkpoints have also imposed fines on people leaving Afghanistan. For example, Khetab fled with her family from Kabul. She is Tajik, and nineteen years old. On approximately October 17, 2001, she and her family were stopped by a group of Taliban just before Jalalabad, at a checkpoint inside Afghanistan. Men with arms forced them to pay 1000 rupees for each family; otherwise, they could not cross into Pakistan through the mountains.100 For those Afghans who could not afford to pay, such incidents of extortion hampered their ability to reach greater safety in Pakistan.

As a result of Pakistan's increasingly strict border closure policy, and the fines and extortion inside Afghanistan, it became even more dangerous and costly for Afghan refugees to enter Pakistan after September 11, 2001.

Refugees Seeking to Cross Pakistan's Northwest Border
When refugees arrived at official border crossing points in the NWFP, they were prevented from entering by Pakistani Frontier Corps. This occurred most often at the Torkham crossing point. The border push-backs were simply the continuation of an earlier policy of push-backs at Pakistan's border crossings.101 However, the incidents became more prevalent with the increased numbers of refugees seeking to enter Pakistan after the October 7, 2001, U.S.-led bombing campaign began.

Seventeen-year-old Abdul arrived in Pakistan with his mother and five brothers and sisters. His father remained in Afghanistan. He told Human Rights Watch, "When we fled [in November], we first came to the border of Pakistan at Torkham and that was a very difficult place for us. The border guards would not let us cross there. They took some sticks and hit us to push us away. We were left to sleep in the dust."102 Eventually, however, he and his relatives were able to enter Pakistan through an unofficial route.

Most often, Afghan refugees were stopped at checkpoints located somewhere in the NWFP's FATA on the Pakistani side of the border. These checkpoints were often set up by local tribal authorities, or by local people in FATA with the complicity or acquiescence of the tribal authorities. Latifa, a woman in her thirties, fled with her brother, mother, and son from Kabul on October 15, 2001. They faced problems at the border when tribal people at a high mountain pass stopped them. The people would not let them pass unless they paid money.103

Occasionally, families tried to negotiate with the armed men at these checkpoints. Ghulam, a sixty-year old man, fled first from Kholm and then from Jalalabad to Pakistan on November 3, 2001. He told Human Rights Watch what happened at the border, "We came through the mountains. At one place some tribal people stopped us. They asked us to give 400 rupees for each person. We argued about this and after a while we were able to pay 2,500 for each family."104

Some refugees were unable to negotiate a price they could afford. In such cases, the refugees might be prevented from entering Pakistan or tribal authorities might take matters into their own hands. Raidigul is Tajik from Bagram, just outside of Kabul. She and her family were stopped in the mountains by some tribal authorities. She told Human Rights Watch:

We did not even have a coin to give them [the tribal authorities], so they beat my husband. They beat him with a machinegun and broke his hand. They said they wanted to take him with them, but they grew tired of us when more people came who could pay, and they just let us pass with them. . . .Here is better than war, but my husband's hand is still disabled after that beating and he cannot work.105

Finally, the conditions in the treacherous mountain crossings were life threatening, especially for children. Noor is from Laghman province. He explained what happened on November 3, 2001, when his family undertook the journey to Pakistan: "When we were crossing the border, my twelve-day-old daughter froze to death because of the cold weather. That was sixteen days ago. We had to bury her in the mountains."106

Refugees Seeking to Cross Pakistan's Southwest Border
Refugees in the Quetta area have also resorted to unofficial crossing points. These refugees find their way into urban refugee settlements in and around Quetta, just like refugees in the NWFP. However, unlike the strict border closure policy in the NWFP at Torkham, the official border crossing in Baluchistan at Chaman was eventually opened to vulnerable refugees.107

Beginning in the first week of November 2001, vulnerable refugees, identified as such by Pakistani Frontier Corps working at the Chaman border crossing point, were allowed to enter Pakistan. The refugees were first brought to the Killi Faizo staging camp, where UNHCR registered them, and NGOs distributed medical aid, food, and non-food assistance items. While this policy was more generous, U.N. officials commented that these "vulnerability" decisions were influenced by bribery and extortion. In addition, one protection problem presented in the first weeks of the vulnerability screening was that women, children, and the elderly were allowed to enter, whereas sometimes men were not. This policy was due to the security concerns of the government of Pakistan, but it was applied to civilian as well as armed men.108 As a result, in the initial stages, some families accompanied by civilian men were separated at Chaman border crossing.109

However, this problem was rectified by mid-November, 2001, and the principle of family unity was thereafter respected by the Frontier Corps personnel.110 As the Killi Faizo camp became more crowded, Roghani and Tor Tanghi camps were developed together with a camp run by the United Arab Emirates, about sixteen kilometers away from Killi Faizo. These were set up as permanent camps, with the capacity to house approximately 50,000 refugees, in contrast to the temporary nature and limited capacity of Killi Faizo.

The government of Pakistan made public calls in late October to establish displaced persons camps near Spin Boldak just inside Afghanistan from the Chaman border crossing, in order to prevent the arrival of more refugees at Chaman.111 Like the announcement to set up similar camps by the government of Iran, this initiative by the government of Pakistan infringed upon Afghans' right to seek asylum. Immediately following the announcement, it was also feared that not only would the government of Pakistan insist that Afghans should not seek asylum, but also those who had reached the relative safety of Pakistan would be forced to return to the Spin Boldak displaced persons camp. In fact, this was the policy for a few days, as announced by Shafi Kakar, a Pakistani official in Baluchistan, who said, "Both sides have agreed that those who have illegally crossed the border and are in Pakistan will be sent back. The Taliban. . .have agreed to set up two refugee camps inside Afghanistan."112 Under this policy, the government of Pakistan sent one group of twenty-five families back to Afghanistan immediately after the October announcements.113

UNHCR and other organizations raised serious concerns about this policy; first that the policy interfered with the right to seek asylum, and second, because the refugees were being returned to a camp run by the Taliban, where there were fears that they would be subject to militarization and forced recruitment. Also, the conditions in the camp of some 60,000 people were dire.114 One report noted, "aside from the shelters, there was little else. Food was scarce. So was water. Toilets were nonexistent. Human excrement littered the sand."115 However, contrary to some of the original fears about the camp, it was later reported that people were not being forced to remain in Spin Boldak,116 and with the Baluchistan governor's agreement to allow vulnerable refugees to enter Pakistan at Chaman, the concerns --- and the forced returns from Pakistan --- subsided.

Occasionally, the relatively more generous policy in Baluchistan created a backlog of families waiting in a "no man's land" to be processed at Killi Faizo. Usually, there were only a few families waiting in this "no man's land," but on a few occasions, the numbers became quite large. Because these families were not yet allowed to enter the Killi Faizo staging camp where NGOs and UNHCR could deliver assistance, they were living in squalid and dire conditions, without shelter, food or water, and sleeping in freezing temperatures at night.117 For one critical span of days from December 4 to December 8, 2001, during the increase in fighting in Kandahar, approximately 2,000 refugees were trapped without protection or assistance waiting to be allowed to enter the Killi Faizo camp.118 The backlog was due to daily numerical limits imposed by the government of Pakistan that were not adjusted for the increase in arrivals. However, by December 9, 2001, the numerical limits had been temporarily lifted and most of the refugees had been registered and allowed to enter the Killi Faizo camp. However, one month later in January 2002, again as a result of increased fighting around Kandahar, a very large group of 13,000 refugees were waiting in the cold and squalor of the no man's land, in hopes of being allowed to enter the Killi Faizo camp.119

Problems Stemming from Lack of Legal Status in Pakistan
The central protection problem facing most Afghan refugees in Pakistan is that many who have resided in Pakistan for years, as well as all recent arrivals, are undocumented. This lack of documentation is particularly problematic since it is combined with an increasingly hostile governmental attitude toward the refugees. As noted above, starting from late 1999 the government stopped considering newly arriving Afghans as prima facie refugees.120 Moreover, with the exception of the very basic registrations conducted at Killi Faizo and the relocation program from new Jalozai, few refugees have even been registered.

According to international standards, refugees who flee persecution and human rights abuse should be recognized and afforded permission to remain regardless of how they enter a country of asylum.121 However, the authorities constantly question the status of Afghan refugees who have entered Pakistan illegally. They lack identity papers or permission to remain, making them even more vulnerable to abuse. North West Frontier Province authorities, such as Iftikhar Hussain Shah, have repeatedly accused the Afghans of being economic migrants rather than genuine refugees.122 At one point, prior to the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan, he said "Our stand on the newcomers is inflexible and unequivocal" and that he hoped to return 70 percent of the Afghan refugees.123 To do so, however, would be a violation of Pakistan's obligations under international law.

Harassment, Extortion, and Imprisonment of Afghan Refugees
The lack of legal status for Afghan refugees in Pakistan has left them without any protection from harassment, extortion, and imprisonment by the Pakistani police. Stories of police harassment and extortion are very common among the Afghan refugees.124 For example, Nurina, a Kuchi woman in her thirties from a small village in Kunar province, told Human Rights Watch that the police in Peshawar picked up her husband on November 13, 2001, while he was walking on the street with a radio, listening to the news. The police asked for his papers and then took him into the police station and held him there. The family knew that the police were seeking to extort money from them but as they had none, Nurina's brother-in-law went to the station each day to plead for her husband's release. After a few days, the police allowed him to re-join his family.125

One refugee man in his fifties built cages for birds and sold them in the bazaar. He explained what happened in early November on the street in Peshawar: "Here we have to hide ourselves from the police. . . .The policeman stopped me and said I had to have a license for selling. But I do not have this license, and I cannot get one. I knew that policeman wanted money from me, but I had nothing to give him. I had to give him two of my cages instead."126

According to interviews with NGO staff working with the prison population, the percentages of Afghans in prison in NWFP and in Baluchistan are relatively large. For example, in the NWFP prisons during early 2000, 12 percent of juvenile detainees were Afghans.127 Afghans in the NWFP are most often charged with vagrancy under the Vagrancy Act of 1924, violation of Pakistan Penal Code Section 170, or violation of the Pakistan Penal Code Section 188. Under Section 170 a person abets an act when he "engages with one or more other. . .persons in any conspiracy for the doing of an [illegal] thing." Whole groups of juveniles found on the street in the NWFP were often charged with abetment if one youth in the group was suspected of petty crime.128 Section 188 of the Penal Code allows for the imposition of fines or one to six months of imprisonment for "disobedience to an order duly promulgated by [a] public servant." In conjunction with Section 188, Afghans were most often accused of violating the Foreigners Order. For all of these offenses, Section 54 of the Pakistan Criminal Procedure Code allows for the arrest without warrant of "any person who. . .a reasonable suspicion exists of his having been. . . concerned [in any cognizable offence]."

Afghans were also imprisoned under the Foreigners Order, which allows for the "arrest of any foreigner without warrant." Prison authorities at Quetta District Prison told Human Rights Watch that most of the Afghans in their facility were held for violating the Foreigners Act and Order.129 Section 15 of the Foreigners Order requires that the reasons for the detention should be forwarded to the federal government. According to Afghan and Pakistani NGOs working with the prison population, this procedural requirement is rarely met. In addition, rarely do the Afghans in prison have access to legal counsel, although most are held in pre-trial detention with little hope of having their cases heard by the courts. However, access to counsel can produce dramatic results. In one instance in 2001, when the cases of non-criminal Afghan pre-trial detainees were taken up by a local NGO, one hundred and forty-five Afghan prisoners were released.130

Refugees belonging to ethnic minorities, particularly Hazaras, live in crowded and squalid conditions on the outskirts of Quetta. Ethnic minority groups in Quetta consistently complained to Human Rights Watch of more frequent incidents of harassment and official discrimination. Regardless of their ethnic background, all refugees in Quetta suffer from police harassment. Gul Razik, a Pashtun refugee in his twenties, said, "if they stop you on the street and ask for your papers during the day, it usually costs five hundred rupees to be set free. If they catch you after midnight for not having an identity document you will have to pay one to four thousand rupees. Once you are in jail, they will add another fifteen hundred rupees for your family to pay. Sometimes, they beat you in jail."131

Urban Sweeps and Forced Returns
In combination with these individual cases of police harassment and detention because of refugees' undocumented status, some Afghans are subjected to forcible return. Three types of authorities can intercept Afghan refugees: Federal Frontier Corps personnel, tribal security personnel in FATA, and the Pakistani national police. As discussed above, police most often pick up undocumented refugees in urban areas. Frontier Corps or FATA authorities intercept refugees when they are nearer to the border. In all three cases, at times the Afghan refugees are placed in jail or prison before being forced back to Afghanistan. Occasionally, the refugees are able to bribe authorities in order to be released. Some refugees are forced back after allegedly committing crimes. Other refugees in prison are forcibly returned to Afghanistan, even when they have been neither charged nor prosecuted for crimes. This practice was particularly common when refugees were intercepted in FATA. Refugees spent a few nights in jail in the Peshawar area and were forced back to Afghanistan through the official border post at Torkham.132

Forced returns to Afghanistan from Pakistan occur on a regular basis.133 Between October 2000 and May 2001, the government forcibly returned some 7,633 Afghans, the majority of whom were men and boys.134  On January 23, 2001, the government of NWFP, and later the Federal Government of Pakistan issued public orders stating that the border should be strictly monitored for illegal immigrants and authorizing the police to detain and deport newly arriving refugees. This order was subsequently re-issued in March 2001 as a NWFP Order to deport people lacking legal status and identification. Returns pursuant to these orders occurred without a hearing or judicial review.135 In the space of a few days in early May 2001, eighty-one Afghan refugees were sent back to Afghanistan, simply because of their undocumented status.136 At the same time, NWFP Governor Lieutenant General Syed Iftikher Hussain Shah announced that Afghan refugees were "economically displaced persons. They are not refugees. They are illegal immigrants and we insist they go back."137

Returns continued even after the U.S.-led bombing campaign began in October 2001, at the rate of close to 300 per month in both October and November from NWFP.138 Amnesty International protested one incident, in which eight Afghan Sikhs were deported without access to a court proceeding.139 Under international standards, refoulement occurs when a refugee is sent back to a place where his or her life or freedom is under threat. During the months of October and November 2001 conditions in Afghanistan were such that all Afghans were being sent to a place where their lives and freedom were under threat. Therefore, these forced returns violated Pakistan's obligations under customary international law.

Often the government of Pakistan calls such forced returns "deportations." Normally, however, deportation is the result of an application of a relevant provision of criminal, immigration, or nationality law to a particular individual. In order to comply with international legal norms, such laws must be uniformly applied during deportation proceedings, and the administrative or judicial process must be fair and impartial. However, the forced returns of Afghans have been imposed effectively because of the refugees' undocumented status without application of uniform standards or the use of any judicial or administrative process. As one UNHCR official noted, "We feel they have not explained the criteria they are using to deport people. . .there have been cases of parents being picked up in the street and deported, with their children left behind."140

In addition to these various forms of forced return, there have been several cases of more systematic urban sweeps of Afghan refugees and shopkeepers, in which large numbers of refugees are rounded up and placed in detention for a few days. One such sweep occurred in Islamabad in the last week of November 2001.141 Often, these urban sweeps disproportionately impact ethnic minority groups within the general Afghan refugee population.142 Throughout the process of these sweeps, refugees who can afford to bribe police attempt to do so either to avoid the initial arrest, or to obtain their release from prison.

Refugees living in urban areas also face general security problems. Many of the newest arrivals seen by Human Rights Watch were living in makeshift shelters, sometimes constructed out of blankets with wood supports. In many cases, refugees described how they had to pay rent to Pakistani landlords in order to put up their tents in small vacant lots squeezed in between other buildings. In other cases, refugees who could not afford to pay rent put up their shelters in places where no-one else wanted to live, such as on top of garbage dumps. One refugee explained the security concerns he had at night when sleeping in a shelter constructed out of blankets and sticks. He said, "In this place, we do not feel safe. During the day it is fine. But during the night, we do not feel safe. I wake up ten to fifteen times every night. I think that I will kill any person who comes and does anything to our women."143

Protection Problems in Camps
Since refugees arriving in Pakistan through unofficial channels are undocumented inside Pakistan, and because the government of Pakistan has refused UNHCR permission to conduct refugee registration for new arrivals since early 2001, assistance distributions (of food and non-food items such as blankets) in camps like new Jalozai and Shamshatoo have been fraught with problems. Without official registration, newly arrived refugees do not have the necessary documentation, commonly called "passbooks" by the refugees, to obtain assistance. Refugees must rely on the generosity of their longer-established relatives in the camps to share their rations. In addition, without accurate numbers, the distributions often fall short of the need. Assistance distributions in camps are administered by Pakistani police and camp block leaders at the centralized location of the camp commandarie.

Refugees without passbooks have often presented themselves during assistance distributions at the camp commandarie. The distributions can take one of several forms: sometimes refugees with passbooks were simply asked to present themselves at the commandarie; at other times the NGO doing the distribution would give chits to refugees as a means to ensure the most needy received rations; still another form involved using the Pakistani police or block leaders to distribute chits to refugees. This last method was especially open to abuse and corruption, and often left women-headed households without assistance.

In some cases, the numbers of refugees present at the distribution gave rise to crowd control problems. However, in other instances the numbers concerned and their behavior did not warrant the brutality suffered. For example, at the Killi Faizo camp near Chaman on December 5 and 6, Human Rights Watch witnessed afternoon beatings by the Frontier Corps personnel that were disproportionate to any need for crowd control. Refugees living in new Jalozai camp also reported incidences of police brutality and corruption. Nadia, a Tajik refugee from the town of Bagram, told Human Rights Watch:

If my husband feels well enough to go to the commandarie, he goes to get the food. But the police treat us very badly. . . . Police beat us when we push to get food. This happened the day before yesterday [November 15, 2001]. The police beat one woman and her head was hurt very badly. Sometimes the guards just throw the chits in the air, and people get injured when they push to try to get them. At those times my husband is too weak to fight for a chit. Some people in the camp have up to ten passbooks, but me, I have only one passbook. When they bring help, people who have only one passbook like us only get very little.144

Muhammad Hussain, a forty-five-year old refugee from Kapisa province said:

Sometimes they beat people at the distributions. People have to pay to convince the police to give them food. Sometimes they pay five hundred rupees, or one hundred or fifty. I have seen them get paid with my own eyes. I saw this [bribery] three days ago [November 19, 2001]. . . . Also, yesterday they were giving mattresses and blankets. There were many people there, at around 11:00 in the morning. They only let people who had chits into the compound. I went there and I told them it is my turn to get these things. A policeman beat me back and told me to wait at another place. He pushed us and beat us with sticks. I know the face of the man who beat me, but I do not know his name. There were many beaten in this way. . . . Sometimes they take the Afghans to the rooms in the commandarie and hold them there. The people who have been arguing about the assistance they just keep for a few days. They release them once they get some money from them. They beat them in those rooms to get money from them. They never beat people on the face. They beat on the legs or back or arms. They do not beat them in a place where people can see.145

A sixteen-year-old refugee girl spoke about what happens when people are kept in the "jail" at the commandarie in Shamshatoo: "The commander takes men and puts them in the jail in the commanderie. He tells them they can pay money to be set free, so they have to pay a 40,000 rupee fine."146

Particular Problems Facing Refugee Women
Women-headed households suffered acutely during these distributions, regardless of the process. A primary problem in all of the refugee camps visited by Human Rights Watch was that there were no female police on site to ensure the security of female refugees, and from whom such female refugees could seek protection without putting themselves at risk of abuse or abridging cultural norms.147 This absence of female staff is contrary to Pakistan's obligations under ExCom Conclusion No. 64, which urges states to "increase the representation of appropriately trained female staff across all levels of organizations and entities which work in refugee programmes and ensure direct access of refugee women to such staff."148 The need for female staff was also clear during the relocation program (discussed infra, under "Refugee Relocation"), in which some refugee women described having less information and fewer alternatives than men when deciding whether or not to relocate.

The frequent incidences of violence during distributions made Afghan refugee women, already unaccustomed to appearing in public places, deeply afraid to go to the distributions in order to collect food. The Pakistani police were known to beat women and children as well as men during distributions.149 In other cases, the women did not have access to the patronage networks that allowed male refugees to obtain chits for their families.150 These problems only exacerbated the already destitute status of these female refugees. One Hazara woman explained, "We do have problems with thieves in the camp. It is also a problem for me to go to the commandarie to get assistance. . . .Me as a woman alone, I cannot go. They bring the assistance to one man, a commander, and it does not reach everyone in the camp. Only a few get that assistance. It goes to Pashtuns and Tajiks."151 UNHCR has long pointed to the problems presented by such male-dominated distribution networks, "decisions about food and other items of distribution are generally made by international organizations and host countries in consultation with the male leaders of the camp. Yet, these male leaders may have little understanding of the needs and circumstances of . . . women."152

In addition to police brutality in the camps, refugee women reported generally about their security concerns.153 One woman said, "In this camp, there are many strange men and many different people -- I have to wear the burqa to feel safe."154 A refugee woman living in new Jalozai camp said, "we have no security in this camp, what we have is not a house, it is covered with plastic but it is not even good to keep out the rain. We have no door to lock."155 Another refugee woman said, "I am afraid of going to [Kotkai camp] because we have heard that there are a lot of restrictions and people cannot go to the toilet easily, because there are a lot of police there and we will not be safe. I am afraid of fighting and war. They will take the men from us to do fighting. Then who will protect us from all this violence?"156 Even once they were in Kotkai camp, refugee women continued to fear for their safety.157

Refugees also reported abductions of teenage girls from new Jalozai and Shamshatoo camps. One incident, reported independently by two refugee women, allegedly occurred in late October, 2001 in Shamshatoo camp. A man who had entered the camp as a taxi driver took a teenage girl from the camp.158

Other refugees in urban settings, particularly in Peshawar, reported anecdotally about destitute women and girls resorting to prostitution.159 Finally, Human Rights Watch received anecdotal accounts of domestic violence from refugee women. One woman explained how the frustrations of life in a refugee camp had impacted her domestic life: "now, my husband does not smoke cigarettes. He takes naswar160 now because it is cheaper than tobacco, but this makes him angry with me. He also lost his job in the carpet factory here and now he is just frustrated. He becomes angry very easily."161

Particular Problems Facing Refugee Children
Most of the refugee families interviewed by Human Rights Watch had small children; and few were in school. Those that did have children in school were located in Shamshatoo camp. In new Jalozai camp, some male refugee children had been sent by their families to the local madrassas (Islamic seminary). Only a few refugee girls were in school.

UNHCR recognizes the importance of working with NGOs and host governments to provide, at a minimum, basic primary education in literacy and numeracy to refugee children.162 Pakistan, as a member of ExCom, in Conclusion No. 47, called for the intensification of "efforts. . .to ensure that all refugee children benefit from primary education of a satisfactory quality." 163

Some refugee parents explained that not only were their children not at school in Pakistan, but they had either never been to school or had their schooling seriously interrupted in Afghanistan.164 For example, one refugee living in a makeshift shelter in urban Peshawar said, "We have spent our whole life in fighting. Our sons have not been to school."165 Another mother explained how the bombing had interrupted her sons' education, "When we fled, my two sons were just about to take exams before the bombing came. They were unable to take the exams and will have to repeat their schoolwork if they are able to go home."166 Abdul, who was living in new Jalozai and was seventeen years old, was eager for educational opportunities. He said, "Here we face many problems and they do not send us to school."167

One of the few international human rights treaties that Pakistan is party to is the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 22 requires that refugee children should receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of the rights enumerated in the Convention. Articles 28 and 29 set forth the rights to education that Pakistan should ensure. One pertinent requirement, contained in article 28 is that states parties shall "make primary education compulsory and available free to all." Given that many refugee children located in new Jalozai camp were not given access to primary schooling, Pakistan is falling short of its international obligations.

However, refugee families also often chose not to send their children to school, especially when the only schooling options required paying fees. Families explained how they had to send their male children to work as opposed to school in order to supplement the family's income. Girl refugee children were usually kept at home with their mothers. In Peshawar, some refugee children living in the Tajarabat area worked as garbage pickers for a few rupees a day. Many refugee children in Peshawar were also working in brick factories, in carpet factories, and with shoe repair shops.168 Hamida, a mother of two, explained to Human Rights Watch that "my fifteen-year old son is sick and my other son polishes shoes, I cannot pay for them to go to school." In Quetta, children most commonly worked in the carpet factories. However, many families reported that their children had lost their jobs since the carpet industry was in a slump during October and November, 2001.169

Other refugee children faced other serious problems when they were moved from the camps they were living in and withdrawn from a supplementary feeding program being run in new Jalozai camp.170 Also problematic were the reported incidences of abductions and prostitution occurring among girl refugees, described in the previous section.

Pakistan's International Obligations to Refugees
The principle of nonrefoulement enshrined in article 33 of the Refugee Convention is also a well-established principle of customary international law and is thus binding on Pakistan despite Pakistan not being a party to the Refugee Convention. By closing its borders to Afghan refugees, denying them entry, and returning some refugees to Afghanistan, the government of Pakistan is placing refugees at risk of being returned to a country where their lives are seriously at risk and thus is violating its obligation of nonrefoulement. 
Pakistan has been a member of UNHCR's Executive Committee since 1958, and as such has participated in drafting and approving many of the ExCom Conclusions on Refugee Protection. Additional ExCom Conclusions that establish norms relevant to Afghan refugees include: No. 22, which addresses the need to fully protect refugees who arrive in a host country as a part of a large-scale influx; No. 85, which addresses the problem of mass influx of refugees and the right to seek and enjoy asylum; No. 81, which reiterates the importance of UNHCR's protection mandate and the primary responsibility of states in protecting refugees within their territories; and No. 91, which emphasizes the importance of refugee registration.
Pakistan also publicly acknowledged its international legal obligations to refugees when it agreed with UNHCR in August 2000 to screen Afghan refugees according to standards generally based on international refugee law.171

82 These passbooks are also known as "Shanakhti" (identity) passes.

83 It should also be noted that many refugees surrendered these passbooks in order to qualify for repatriation assistance in the early 1990s, but were ultimately unable to return. In addition, UN officials commented that legal protection was less practically necessary during this time because the government was not as overtly hostile to the refugees' presence.

84 See discussion of prima facie refugee status in the text accompanying notes 44-46.

85 In 2000 Pakistan passed the Foreigners (Amendment) Ordinance, which establishes a National Aliens Registration Authority (NARA). On January 4, 2001 this authority was established by the government to register foreigners living in Pakistan without permission to remain and to issue work permits to those seeking employment. Despite the fact that the Ordinance embraces the concept of undocumented aliens, and would by its terms allow for the registration of recently arrived Afghan refugees, the government never indicated that Afghans would be included in the registration. In addition, NARA has not begun its work of registering aliens in Pakistan.

86 M. Ilyas Khan, "The Last Refuge," The Herald, June 2001, p. 83.

87 See, e.g. ExCom Conclusions No. 52, International Solidarity and Refugee Protection, 1988, No. 71, General Conclusion on International Protection, 1993; No. 75, Internally Displaced Persons, 1994; No. 77, General Conclusion on International Protection, 1995; and No. 85, General Conclusion on International Protection, 1998. Excom Conclusion No. 77 states that the ExCom "reaffirms that respect for fundamental humanitarian principles, including safeguarding the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution, and full regard for the principle of non refoulement is incumbent on all members of the international community; and urges the continued commitment of States to receive and host refugees and ensure their protection in accordance with accepted legal principles."

88 Foreigners Order, October 1951, § 11.

89 See discussion of protection problems for urban refugees, see here

90 Agreed Understandings for the Screening Process Between Government of Pakistan and UNHCR, August 2, 2001.

91 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Article 1(A) defines a refugee as a person who, "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."

92 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Protection in Africa, Article I.

93 Associated Press, "U.N. Protests Pakistan's Deportation of 150 Afghan Refugees," August 30, 2001.

94 Dow Jones International, "Pakistan Says Didn't Violate U.N. Afghan Refugees Agreement," August 31, 2001.

95 See section of this report entitled "Refugee Relocation,"

96 U.S. Committee for Refugees, Afghan Refugees Shunned and Scorned, 2001, p. 24-26.

97 See, e.g. Agence France Presse, "Security Tightened at Pakistan-Afghan Border as Taliban Flaunt Weapons," November 13, 2001; The Globe and Mail, "War News," November 16, 2001.

98 See notes 179-198, infra and accompanying text, discussing some of these security concerns.

99 See e.g. The Associated Press, "Bush Anti-Terror Aid Request Doubled," September 13, 2001; Barry Schweid, "Powell Reaches Out to Arab Nations," The Associated Press, September 14, 2001 (noting that "Pakistan is ready to agree to the United States' request that it close its border with Afghanistan"); Barbara Slavin and Bill Nichols, "U.S. Pressures Pakistan To Assist In Bringing In Bin Laden," USA Today, September 14, 2001 ("According to administration and Congressional sources, Pakistan is being pressured to . . . . close the border with Afghanistan"). As the conflict in Afghanistan continued, the White House expressed its appreciation to Pakistan for "doing everything it can to be helpful to arrest any movement back and forth across the border." Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, Office of the Press Secretary, November 19, 2001, available at

100 Human Rights Watch interview, Shamshatoo, November 17, 2001.

101 See, e.g. "Taliban Shut Border for Three Hours," the Dawn, June 10, 2001.

102 Human Rights Watch interview, new Jalozai camp, November 20, 2001.

103 Human Rights Watch interview, Mohammed Gulgari, Peshawar, November 15, 2001.

104 Human Rights Watch interview, new Jalozai camp, November 20, 2001.

105 Human Rights Watch interview Shamshatoo camp, November 17, 2001.

106 Human Rights Watch interview, Tajarabat, Peshawar, November 18, 2001.

107 The divergent policies towards refugees in Baluchistan and NWFP were attributed to the differing attitudes of the two local governors. Human Rights Watch interview with protection staff of relief NGO, Peshawar, Pakistan, November 13, 2001.

108 See discussion of the separation of civilian refugees from armed and militarized individuals in the text accompanying notes 97-99, supra.

109 The preservation of family unity is a crucial aspect of refugee protection and is reflected in UNHCR's Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care, 1994, p. 43, and p. 124. See also ExCom Conclusion No. 22, Protection of Asylum Seekers in Situation of Large-Scale Influx, 1981 (stating that "family unity should be respected"); ExCom Conclusion No. 24, Family Reunification, 1981; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 7 (stating that every child has the right "to know and be cared for by his or her parents."); UNHCR, Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, 1991, ¶ 32 (noting that "when women and girls are separated from male family members in the chaos of flight. . .they are especially susceptible to physical abuse and rape.").

110 Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR protection staff, Quetta, November 30, 2001.

111 One of the most widely reported calls for camps inside Afghanistan occurred on October 23, 2001 when President General Pervez Musharraf said on CNN's Larry King Live, "our point of view has always been that we must establish camps across the border in Afghanistan and all assistance to the refugees must be given there, so that people go back to Afghanistan instead of making them comfortable here in Pakistan." See also Haroon Rashid, "Pakistan: Some Afghan Refugees To Be Repatriated To Camps Inside Afghanistan," The Associated Press, October 23, 2001.

112 Haroon Rashid, "Some Afghan Refugees to be Repatriated to Camps Inside Afghanistan," The Associated Press, October 23, 2001 (emphasis added).

113 Catherine Philip, "Pakistan Strikes Deal To Deport Thousands," The Times of London, October 24, 2001.

114 Press Briefing by the U.N. Offices for Pakistan and Afghanistan, IRIN News Release, November 26, 2001.

115 "Refugees Endure Lives of Squalor in Taliban Camp," Washington Post, November 20, 2001.

116 Ibid.

117 Human Rights Watch interviews, Chaman, December 7-8, 2001.

118 Human Rights Watch interviews, Chaman, December 7-8, 2001. See also BBC News, "Refugees Trapped in No Man's Land," December 4, 2001, at

119 "Number of Afghan Refugees in No-man's Land Rises to 7000," UNHCR News Release, January 11, 2002.

120 See discussion of prima facie refugee status in the text accompanying notes 44-46.

121 See, e.g. Refugee Convention, Article 31 ("The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees."). See also UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status, 1976 (reedited January, 1992) ¶ 196 (noting that "In most cases a person fleeing from persecution will have arrived with the barest necessities and very frequently even without personal documents.").

122 Meriel Beattie, "80,000 Refugees Are Trapped In Freezing Corner Of Pakistan," The Independent, February 10, 2001.

123 Mohammed Riaz, "Pakistan Plans To Repatriate Afghans To Their Devastated Country," AP Newswires, May 20, 2001.

124 One refugee from Bamiyan province noted that police harassment can have a disparate impact on refugees who are Tajik or Uzbek. He said, "it is more difficult for them because they do not speak Urdu or Pashto." Human Rights Watch interview, Muhammed Gulgari neighborhood, Peshawar, November 15, 2001.

125 Human Rights Watch interview, Muhammed Gulgari neighborhood, Peshawar, November 15, 2001.

126 Human Rights Watch interview, Tajarabat, Peshawar, November 18, 2001.

127 Dost Welfare Foundation, Report on Juvenile Cases in NWFP Prisons, December 1999.

128 Human Rights Watch interview with Pakistani NGO working with prison population in NWFP, November 21, 2001.

129 Human Rights Watch interview with Quetta District Prison Authority, December 1, 2001.

130 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO staff member, Peshawar, November 16, 2001.

131 Human Rights Watch interview, Quetta, November 30, 2001.

132 Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR protection staff member, November 16, 2001.

133 For example, in 1999 over 150 Hazara male refugees were forced back from Quetta after being placed in detention in Quetta prisons under the Foreigners Act (1964). See U.N. Study on Forced Returns of Afghans from Pakistan, May 2001.

134 Ibid.

135 The March announcement was protested by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, for being a violation of due process of law. See "HRCP Flays Government Move to Deport Afghan Refugees," The Dawn, March 8, 2001.

136 "Eighty-one Afghan Immigrants Deported," The Dawn, May 9, 2001.

137 "New Afghan Immigrants Not Refugees," The Dawn, May 13, 2001.

138 Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR protection staff member, November 16, 2001.

139 "Refugees Must Not be Forced Back to an Unstable Afghanistan," Amnesty International Press Release, December 14, 2001.

140 Meriel Beattie, "80,000 Refugees Are Trapped In Freezing Corner Of Pakistan," The Independent, February 10, 2001. When families are separated due to such standardless deportations, the principle of family unity is undermined. See note 109, supra.

141 Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR protection staff member, Islamabad, November 26, 2001.

142 Human Rights Watch interview with international NGO staff member, November 22, 2001.

143 Human Rights Watch interview in Tajarabat, Peshawar, November 18, 2001.

144 Human Rights Watch interview, Shamshatoo camp, November 17, 2001.

145 Human Rights Watch interview, new Jalozai camp, November 22, 2001.

146 Human rights Watch interview, Shamshatoo camp, November 17, 2001.

147 One Afghan women's NGO interviewed by Human Rights Watch also particularly pointed to the lack of female security staff during assistance distributions. Human Rights Watch interview with Afghan Women's NGO staff member, November 22, 2001.

148 ExCom Conclusion No. 64, Refugee Women and International Protection, 1990, ¶ (a)(ii).

149 Pamela Constable, "Barred from Pakistan, Refugees Left to Elements," Washington Post, January 16, 2002.

150 The predominance of such patronage networks is contrary to UNHCR's guideline that "refugee women [should] have access to whatever process is used to determine eligibility for assistance." See UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, 1991, ¶ 45. It is also contrary to Pakistan's obligations under ExCom Conclusion No. 64, Refugee Women and International Protection, 1990, which urges states to "provide all refugee women and girls with effective and equitable access to basic services, including food, water and relief supplies."

151 Human Rights Watch interview, Shamshatoo camp, November 17, 2001.

152 See UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, 1991, ¶ 83.

153 The need to address these problems is recognized in the UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, 1991, ¶ 79 (noting that "[t]he physical circumstances in which refugees are housed affect their safety. Too often refugee women face dangers stemming from poor design of camps: for example. . .location of basic services and facilities such as latrines.") and ¶ 80 (stating that "in many refugee situations, strangers are thrown together in new settings. . .women headed households may be intermixed with single men under circumstances that undermine efforts to provide protection.). See also ExCom Conclusion No. 64, Refugee Women and International Protection, 1990.

154 Human Rights Watch interview, Shamshatoo camp, November 17, 2001.

155 Human Rights Watch interview at new Jalozai camp, November 20, 2001.

156 Human Rights Watch interview, Shamshatoo camp, November 17, 2001.

157 See discussion in text accompanying note 198, infra.

158 Human Rights Watch interview, Shamshatoo camp, November 17, 2001. ExCom Conclusion No. 84, Refugee Children and Adolescents, 1997, urges states and concerned parties to protect child and adolescent refugees by "safeguarding the physical security of refugee children and adolescents" by "safeguarding the physical security of refugee children and adolescents, securing the location of camps and settlements at a reasonable distance from the frontiers of countries of origin, and taking steps to preserve the civilian character and humanitarian nature of refugee camps and settlements"; and by "preventing sexual violence, exploitation, trafficking and abuse."

159 See also BBC on line, "Inside a Peshawar Brothel," December 19, 2001, at UNHCR has recognized the fact that poverty can force refugee women into prostitution, "the failure to address adequately the assistance needs of refugee women has had serious repercussions in the form of sexual exploitation. . . some refugee women have been forced into prostitution for lack of assistance." See UNHCR, Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, 1991, ¶ 40.

160 A green herb, known as a stimulant, and usually ingested by chewing.

161 Human Rights Watch interview, Shamshatoo camp, November 17, 2001.

162 UNHCR, Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care, 1994, p. 111.

163 ExCom Conclusion No. 47, Refugee Children, 1987.

164 UNICEF estimates that only thirty-six percent of Afghan boys inside Afghanistan are in school. See Larry Kaplow, "The Businessman: Hamidullah, 9," The Atlanta Journal - Constitution, January 6, 2002.

165 Human Rights Watch interview in Tajarabat, Peshawar, November 18, 2001.

166 Human Rights Watch interview, Muhammed Gulgari neighborhood, Peshawar, November 15, 2001.

167 Human Rights Watch interview, new Jalozai, November 20, 2001.

168 While Human Rights Watch did not visit the places where children were working, staff from international organizations and local NGOs described the conditions of work as unhealthy for children. This is contrary to the Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182), to which Pakistan became a party in October, 2001. The Convention states that the worst forms of child labour include "work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children." States parties to the Convention are to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour "as a matter of urgency." In addition, the need to protect refugee children from employment that is dangerous to their health or to interfere with their education and development is recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 32, and in UNHCR's Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care, 1994, p. 84.

169 Human Rights Watch interview, Quetta, November 30, 2001.

170 See section of this report entitled "Assistance Improved,"

171 See notes 90-95, supra and accompanying text, discussing the screening program.

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