World Bulletin / News Desk
Pakistan is conducting mass repatriation of Afghan refugees through coercion, threats and abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a scathing report Monday, accusing the UN refugee agency of complicity in promoting the exodus.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been forced to return to their homeland, which is racked by conflict, poverty and unemployment, joining more than half a million others uprooted by war inside the country.
"After decades of hosting Afghan refugees, Pakistan in mid-2016 unleashed the world's largest recent anti-refugee crackdowns to coerce their mass return," said Gerry Simpson, a refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Because the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) didn't stand up publicly to Pakistan's bullying and abuses, international donors should step in to press the government and UN to protect the remaining Afghan refugees in Pakistan."
The report quoted a 26-year-old Afghan who was forced to return to Kabul with his wife and two children after Pakistani security forces stormed into their house.
"In July, 11 soldiers and police came to our home at 3am. They entered without asking and threw all our things on the floor. They demanded to see our refugee cards and said they were expired," the man was quoted as saying.
"Then they stole all our money and told us to leave Pakistan."
The report was also critical of the UNHCR, saying that by doubling its cash grants to Afghans returning from Pakistan to $400, it was effectively promoting the exodus.
"The UN refugee agency should end the fiction that the mass forced return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan is, in fact, mass voluntary return," Simpson said.
"If UNHCR feels that giving cash to returning refugees is the best way to help them survive in Afghanistan, it should at the very least make clear it does not consider their return to be voluntary."
There was no immediate reaction to the report from UNHCR or the Pakistani government.