Afghan refugees shunned and scorned

Categories: Refugees


According to UNHCR, in the face of a worsening economy, the government of Pakistan wanted to show its citizens that it was placing priority on their needs and interests, not on those of the refugees. Also, as the drought in Afghanistan worsened and it became clear that the international community would be unable to forestall the exodus of people from their homes in Search of assistance (and safety, in the case of those fleeing fighting), Pakistan’s fears of a massive influx grew.


Once the Taliban gained control of Kabul, the Pakistani authorities began to encourage refugees to go home, saying that most of Afghanistan was now safe. The government also began to argue that newly arrived Afghans were not refugees but economic migrants. Police harassment of urban refugees increased during this period. Police stopped refugees and threatened to deport those without documentation. However, the refugees could generally avoid deportation or detention by paying small bribes.

During periods of domestic political tension, the Pakistani authorities rounded up groups of Afghan men, but generally released them after a few days16.

Abuse Leads to Death On June 15, Pakistani police stopped a group of four Afghans-two men and two women-who had just arrived from Peshawar by bus. They ushered the men and women into separate cars and asked the men, Salahoddin Samadi and his brother, for the equivalent of $150 to set them free. When Samadi said that they did not have the money, one of the police officers reportedly hit him over the head with a bottle.

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17 Samadi was taken to a hospital, where he went into a coma. He died eleven days later.

According to an IRIN news report, a senior official in the Islamabad police department said that the police officer involved had been dismissed, that charges had been brought against him, and that a full investigation of the incident would be launched. 18 However, a refugee who was closely involved in helping the family press charges against the police officer who beat Samadi told USCR that the policeman in question had been set free and was once again on active duty. On June 27, the day after Samadi’s death, some 200 Afghan refugees demonstrated outside of the hospital and later at the offices of one of the UN agencies in Islamabad.

In a petition addressed to the UN Human Rights Office in Islamabad, the group said, “We, all the Afghans, in protest of the continuous inhuman treatment of Afghan refugees by the Pakistan police, request your office, as well as all the other concerned agencies, to join us in putting an end to the harassment and torture of Afghan refugees. “19 CONCLUSION The horrific terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, have changed the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the region.

Anticipated U. S. military action has caused tens-perhaps hundreds-of thousands of Afghans, particularly residents of Kandahar and Kabul, to flee their homes. The displaced Afghans join some 4. 5 million Afghans who were refugees or internally displaced before September 11 (3. 6 million refugees and 900,000 internally displaced). Their displacement adds to what was already a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan brought on by more than two decades of continuous conflict and a devastating drought.

The withdrawal from Afghanistan of all expatriate personnel of UN agencies and international NGOs is an ominous sign of future suffering. If the U. S. does proceed with military strikes in Afghanistan, many of those currently displaced within Afghanistan will likely flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees may not be allowed in, much less welcomed. Already, Pakistan, Iran, and Tajikistan have closed their borders. Pakistan did so at the instigation of the United States, which made the request for security reasons.

Yet sealing the border is unlikely to deter suspected terrorists from entering Pakistan; it will only trap thousands of men, women, and children in a place of danger. USCR believes that Pakistan’s border (and those of other countries neighboring Afghanistan) should remain open to Afghans fleeing for their lives. Keeping fleeing Afghans on the Afghan side of the border and sending assistance to them there is not the answer. Experience has shown that such so-called safe havens, in fact, trap people in places of danger without adequate protection. Refugees must be allowed to enter neighbouring countries and be protected and assisted there.

This is a great deal to ask of countries like Pakistan and Iran, which already host very large Afghan refugee populations and which, no longer want them. If Pakistan and Iran agree to receive additional refugees, they will rightly expect the international community to cover the costs associated with a new influx. While there is new urgency to the issue of whether Pakistan, Iran and other countries allow fleeing Afghans to enter and who will pay for assisting them, other issues remain relating to how Pakistan in particular responds to Afghan refugees and asylum seekers.

The following recommendations address both the unfolding crisis and the many problems that Afghan refugees already faced in Pakistan. Until the conflict in Afghanistan ends and human rights and stability are restored, Afghans will continue to seek protection and assistance in neighbouring countries. Pakistan, which has helped fuel the conflict in Afghanistan by arming and financing the Taliban, should recognize that to stop the flow of refugees, it must direct its efforts in Afghanistan toward bringing about peace and ending human rights abuses.

It is hardly surprising and not unreasonable; however, that Pakistan and Iran-despite their roles in exacerbating the conflict-want the flow of new Afghan refugees and the prolonged stay of Afghan refugees already in their countries to end. While some of the claims that Pakistan makes about the negative impact that Afghan refugees have had on its economy and society are exaggerated, they are not groundless. Pakistan’s assertion-prior to September 11, 2001-that many Afghan refugees living in Pakistan no longer had cause to fear persecution was valid.

But as long as conflict and natural disaster continue to devastate Afghanistan, solutions will be difficult to achieve. In the interim, it is important that Pakistan and other countries permit entry to Afghan asylum seekers and uphold refugees’ basic rights. It is also essential that the international community adequately assist the refugees, and, as soon as larger-scale repatriation is feasible, provide the funds to make refugee return possible. RECOMMENDATIONS If large-scale war erupts inside Afghanistan, refugees should be permitted to cross into Pakistan and other neighbouring countries, at least on a temporary basis.

In admitting such refugees, the UN Refugee Convention allows states to enact provisional measures “in time of war and other grave and exceptional circumstances” (Article 9) to protect their own national security. Such measures could include confinement of refugees (Article 31. 2), as well as exclusion of refugee protection for persons found to have committed crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity (Article 1. F). Many Afghan refugees currently in Pakistan will be unable to return home.

The international community should help UNHCR and Pakistan achieve long-term solutions for these refugees. For most, this means local integration in Pakistan (and other countries in the immediate region), which would require transforming the refugees into contributing members of Pakistan’s society and economy, and ensuring that they are not a continuing drain on the country. For the relatively few who will neither be able to return to Afghanistan nor integrate into other countries in the region, this means resettlement in third countries, including the United States.

Afghan refugees who are not at risk of persecution by the Taliban should begin repatriating to Afghanistan once this new crisis subsides and it is safe to do so. Neither Pakistan nor the international community can look after them indefinitely. If ongoing conflict prevents refugees from returning to their areas of origin, the Taliban may need to provide them land in other, safer areas of Afghanistan, where they can live in dignity without fear for their personal safety.

The international community will need to provide substantial assistance to enable what could be a very large number of returnees to establish themselves in these new areas. If the Taliban’s actions continue to cause refugees to flee, Pakistan should permit refugees to enter, screen them (in conjunction with UNHCR) to determine whether they need protection, and, if they are found to be in danger, grant them refuge-and ensure that they and all other Afghan refugees in Pakistan are not harassed, detained Without cause, or deported.

The international community should provide adequate assistance to ensure that refugees do not unfairly burden Pakistan. 1 http://www. unhcr. ch 2 http://www. refugees. org 3 World Refugee Survey 2003, USCR, Washington 4 Statistics compiled by UNOCHA, Internal Displacement in Afghanistan 5 http://www. refugees. org/world/articles/pakistan 6Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Crisis of Impunity: The Role of Pakistan, Russia, and Iran in Fueling the Civil War,” New York, July 2001, p. 3. 7 Statistics compiled by UNOCHA, Internal Displacement in Afghanistan, June 2001. 8Afghanistan-Complex Emergency, U.S.

Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Situation Report #1, Fiscal Year 2001, September 6, 2001 9 World Refugee Survey 1981, U. S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), Washington 10 World Refugee Survey 1997, USCR, Washington 11 World Refugee Survey 2001, USCR, Washington 12 Letter from H. E. Abdul Satter, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, to UN General Assembly, December 19, 2000. 13 IRIN, UNOCHA, Islamabad, January 26, 2001 14 USCR interview with UNHCR representative Hasim Utkan, Islamabad, June 2001. It should also be noted that Pakistan was also severely affected by drought.

15 USCR interview with UNHCR representative Hasim Utkan, Islamabad, June 2001. 16 UNHCR reported 2 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan at the end of 2000, of whom, it said, 1. 2 million lived in refugee camps. That would suggest that some 800,000 Afghans lived in urban centers. Pakistani authorities believe the number of Afghans living in cities is much higher, however. 17 IRIN, UNOCHA, Islamabad, June 27 18 Ibid. 19 UN study of the forcible return of Afghans from NWFP, 2001. International Human Rights Law The Refugee in International Law 1 Robert Gordon University Student Id.

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Afghan refugees shunned and scorned. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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