Pakistan Unleashes Abuse against Afghans, Daily Brief, 29 November, 2023.

Daily Brief, 29 November, 2023.


Pakistani authorities’ fresh efforts to “convince” Afghans there to return to Afghanistan can be summarized in one word: abuse.

Police and other officials have carried out mass detentions, night raids, and beatings against Afghans. They’ve seized property and livestock, and bulldozed homes. They’ve also demanded bribes, confiscated jewelry, and destroyed identity documents. Pakistani police have sometimes sexually harassed Afghan women and girls and threatened them with sexual assault.

This wave of ugliness is all aimed at pushing Afghan refugees and asylum seekers to leave Pakistan. The deportations we highlighted here previously are now happening in larger numbers – some 20,000 people have been deported since mid-September. The threats and abuses have forced out far more: some 355,000.

It’s all completely at odds with Pakistan’s international obligations not to forcibly return people to countries where they face a clear risk of torture or other persecution.

Among those being deported or coerced to leave are people who would be at risk of persecution in Afghanistan, including women and girls, human rights defenders, journalists, and former government employees who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

Some of those at risk had previously been promised resettlement in the US, UK, Germany, and Canada, but resettlement processes are not proceeding quickly enough. Those governments need to get moving.

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of people into Afghanistan “couldn’t have come at a worse time,” as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said. The country faces a prolonged economic crisis that has left two thirds of the population in need of humanitarian assistance, and now, winter is setting in.

The new arrivals come with almost nothing, because Pakistani authorities have prohibited Afghans from taking out more than 50,000 Pakistani rupees (US$ 175) each. Humanitarian agencies have described shortages of tents and other basic services for those arriving.

Forcing people into life-threatening conditions in Afghanistan is unconscionable. Pakistani authorities have unleashed a wave of abuses and put hundreds of thousands at risk. They need to reverse course. Quickly.