Pakistan suspends deportations of Afghans on ‘humanitarian grounds’ following UNHCR chief’s visit to Islamabad

Pakistan temporarily halted the deportation of undocumented Afghan migrants after discussions with UNHCR Chief Filippo Grandi. During his three-day visit, which ended on July 9, Grandi stressed the importance of finding a long-term solution for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

In a statement, UNHCR expressed gratitude for suspending the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan” and sought assurances that it would remain on hold.

A senior Pakistani official confirmed to VOA that the deportations had been paused, although the duration of this suspension remains unclear. The official stressed the need for the international community to share the responsibility for Afghan refugees, stating, “It’s a shared responsibility and shouldn’t be left to Pakistan to lift the entire burden.”

The decision to halt the expulsions was made on “humanitarian grounds” due to worsening economic and humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan, according to both Pakistani and U.N. officials.

UNHCR chief in Pakistan
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi, the Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Hai Kyung Jun, and UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, Ms. Philippa Candler, posing for a photograph with Afghan refugee females at the Urban Cohesion Hub in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (Image Credit: UNHCR/Asif Shahzad)

UNHCR chief visits Pakistan

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi arrived in Pakistan on Sunday and met with Afghan refugees on the first two days of his visit.

“I spent time with Afghan refugees whose resourcefulness is testimony to their strength — and to Pakistan’s long hospitality,” Grandi wrote on the social media platform X, adding that his visit aimed to “discuss how we can best support both amidst growing challenges.”

Grandi proposed a dialogue later this year involving government representatives, development actors, and the private sector to develop a comprehensive package of solutions benefiting Afghan refugees and their host country. He also committed to enhancing efforts to create conditions conducive to voluntary returns in Afghanistan, such as improved material conditions, access to services, and job opportunities.

“We need to seize this opportunity to accelerate solutions and have a bigger, broader vision for the Afghan people in Pakistan,” he concluded.

During his visit, Grandi met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other senior Pakistani officials to discuss the situation of approximately 3 million Afghans in Pakistan. PM Sharif told the U.N. refugee agency chief that Afghan refugees are treated with “exemplary respect and dignity” despite facing multiple challenges, according to a statement released by his office Tuesday.

Sharif also urged the international community to “recognize the burden being shouldered by Pakistan while hosting such a large refugee population and demonstrate collective responsibility.”

Of these, about 1.3 million are officially recognized as refugees, nearly 900,000 hold Afghan citizenship cards, and the rest lack proper documentation or have expired visas.

Grandi also met with Asif Durrani, the country’s special representative for Afghanistan. Durrani wrote on X that the two “expressed readiness to find a durable solution to the Afghan refugee problem, including their repatriation.”

UNHCR chief visits Afghan refugee communities

During his stay, Grandi visited Afghan refugee communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, including Peshawar, and heard their concerns. He urged the extension of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, a crucial identity document for over 1.3 million Afghan refugees. He commended Pakistan’s long-standing hospitality towards Afghan refugees and called for a shift towards solutions and responsibility-sharing.

Crackdown on undocumented Afghanis

Pakistan started a crackdown on undocumented foreigners last November, citing an increase in militant attacks linked to refugees. This move primarily targeted over 1 million Afghan migrants and asylum-seekers without legal documents. Since the start of this campaign, close to 600,000 Afghans have been repatriated.

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

17,828FansLike
11,620FollowersFollow
17,266FollowersFollow
- Advert -spot_img

Latest Articles