Target: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Goal: Stop targeting desperate refugees with violent attacks and deportations.
Pakistan has one of the largest refugee populations in the world. It has received refugees from its war-torn neighbor, Afghanistan, since the late 1970s, housing 1.5 million documented refugees with an estimated 1 million more undocumented. Even after such a long time many refugees, newer and older, have been threatened with mass deportations. Since the Taliban attack on Army Public School in Peshawar at the end of 2014, Human Rights Watch has witnessed retaliatory efforts against these refugees. Afghans living in Pakistan have been targeted with harassment, beatings and worse by local police and local populations. Refugees from Afghanistan have been scapegoated as the source or reason for the massacre, which killed over 140 people.
The Pakistani government has used the Peshawar massacre as a means to implement more repressive policies, including using military courts to try terrorism suspects and proposals to register and send Afghan refugees back to their home country. Although documented refugees cannot legally be deported by international and Pakistani law (as Afghanistan is still a conflict zone) tens of thousands of Afghans have already been repatriated. Those who have gone back live in abysmal conditions, where many families have neither food, water, or shelter. Many have moved back as a response to the police’s rampant abuse against them, while others were forced out when they were refused extension on their registration cards, which recognizes their status as Afghan citizens temporarily living in Pakistan.
In the last several months, over 101,000 unregistered refugees have been forced to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan. As Human Rights Watch sees it, the problems that have befallen refugees rests on both Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s shoulders. Pakistan is deporting people by the thousands, while Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation is ill-equipped to house and care for all of its returning citizens. They desperately need help from both sides.
Dear Prime Minister Sharif,
Your country houses one of the largest refugee populations in the world, approximately 2.5 million of whom are Afghan. While it is well-understood that this puts a strain on your country and economy, it should also be maintained that all people living within your borders deserve a decent life. Since the Tehrik-i-Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014, your government has cracked down on its Afghan refugee population. Implementing such policies has prompted rampant harassment and abuse by police and local leaders against the refugees.
Human Rights Watch has documented a myriad of abuses against Afghan refugees by police since 2014. They have called for your government to immediately rectify this and so do we. The first step to this is to end policies that threaten to deport these people seeking refuge from your war-torn neighbor. The police have used such policies to harass and harm this already-vulnerable population.
As you no doubt know, the violence in Afghanistan is not waning. By deporting these people, you are condemning them to misery and, quite possibly, death. We urge you to loosen restrictions on these Afghan refugees so that they may pursue the lives they deserve.
[Your name here]
Photo credit: Haeferl