Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, over 600,000 Afghans have fled the country and resided in Pakistan without proper documentation. In response, the Pakistani government imposed a deadline of November 1 for all “illegal immigrants” to voluntarily leave the country in mid-September. The government started detaining undocumented foreign people in the country at the beginning of November.
Under international human rights law and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment(UNCAT), countries are under a duty not to return migrants to a country where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm, also known as the principle of non-refoulement. It is worth noting that the non-refoulement principle applies to all migrants irrespective of their status, as emphasised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Pakistan has been a state party to the UNCAT since 2008 and ratified the UNCAT in 2010.
Since the announcement of the deportation plan, the government has set up 49 detention centres to keep detainees. According to Amnesty International, the centres do not protect the detainees’ rights to legal representation, liberty and a fair trial. Citing fear of arrest in Pakistan, around 60,000 Afghan refugees left Pakistan, as reported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Various human rights groups, including the Human Rights Watch and the OHCHR, have called for the suspension of the deportation plan and condemned for the human rights abuse.
Among the Afghan migrants, there are an estimated 200 Afghan journalists who are monitored by the Taliban authorities. They believe that they would have been killed upon their return to Afghanistan. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani stated that apart from journalists, women and other civil actors are also at particular risk if they are forced to return to Afghanistan.