Pakistan’s Supreme Court heard arguments Friday on a petition to halt the country’s removal of Afghan refugees. The petition was signed by a group of human rights activists, lawyers and politicians in November following the government’s October 3 decision to deport undocumented Afghan migrants back to Afghanistan.
Despite warnings, and with the expiration of the November 1 deadline given for undocumented Afghans to leave the country, authorities started detaining undocumented Afghans, prompting human rights organizations to call upon the Pakistani government to halt the detention, deportations and mistreatment of Afghan refugees.
The deportations prompted the signatories of the petition to deposit their request to the Supreme Court, urging the court to revoke the government’s decision as a breach of “the fundamental rights of approximately 4.4 million Afghans currently residing in Pakistan” and to declare it “unlawful and against the constitutional law” of the country.
Friday’s arguments mark the first Supreme Court hearing on the government’s decision, during which the court issued a request for a response from the government, the Apex Committee and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and adjourned the hearing until next week.
Moreover, Justice Ayesha Malik affirmed that “Pakistan is a signatory to the UN conventions on the protection of the rights of refugees” and that “Pakistan is bound by these conventions.”
UN rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani warned against the plan in October, urging authorities to suspend it. Shamdasani argued the plan constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, breaches the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and contravenes the principle of non-refoulement, a core principle of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Furthermore, the UN Refugee Agency expressed its concerns over the consequences the decision, reporting that around 374,000 Afghans returned to their country as a result.
In June, Amnesty International condemned the arbitrary arrests and detention of Afghans by Pakistani authorities and pressed the government to “urgently stop arbitrarily arresting and harassing Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are fleeing persecution by the Taliban.”