Bangkok, 7 October 2023 (TDI):  The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) jointly appealed to Pakistan to maintain its protection space for Afghan individuals in need of safety.

The plea came in response to Pakistan’s announcement of intentions to repatriate Afghan nationals back to their home country.

Afghanistan is grappling with a severe humanitarian crisis, marked by numerous human rights challenges, particularly affecting women and girls.

Such repatriation plans could pose significant risks to those who have fled the country and may face protection issues upon return.

UNHCR and IOM acknowledged Pakistan’s authority over its domestic policies, the management of populations within its borders, and its responsibility for public safety and security.

They also emphasized their longstanding partnership with the Government of Pakistan and express readiness to assist in creating a comprehensive and sustainable system for registering and managing Afghan nationals, including those in need of international protection.

Furthermore, UNHCR and IOM commended Pakistan’s generous hospitality towards Afghan nationals over the past four decades, despite the challenges faced.

They stressed the importance of ensuring that all returns are voluntary, safe, and dignified, without imposing any pressure, to safeguard the well-being of those seeking refuge.

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Forced repatriation of Afghan nationals could lead to severe human rights violations, such as family separations and the deportation of minors.

UNHCR and IOM persisted in their call for all countries to suspend the forcible return of Afghan nationals and advocate for any potential returns to occur in a secure, respectful, and voluntary manner.