Islamabad: A group of human rights defenders has filed a petition urging the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) to advocate for the rights of Afghan asylum seekers in Pakistan. The NCHR, in response to the petition, has written a letter to the government and other stakeholders, calling for the treatment of asylum seekers in accordance with national and international human rights commitments.
The petition requests the NCHR to intervene and prevent the government from detaining, forcibly deporting, or harassing Afghan asylum seekers. It also suggests that the commission directs the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to expedite the processing and decision of asylum applications filed by foreigners residing in Pakistan.
In light of the petition, the commission has written to the government and stakeholders, recommending that repatriation should be restrained for individuals with proper documentation and vulnerable groups, including asylum seekers. The commission also emphasizes the need for clear guidelines and consultations with civil society and international organizations to develop a comprehensive Afghan refugee policy.
The delegation submitting the petition includes Senators Mushtaq Ahmed, Farhatullah Babar, and Afrasiab Khattak, as well as human rights defenders Saba Gul Khattak, Amina Masood Junjua, and advocate Imran Shafique. They held a meeting with NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha to discuss their concerns.
The petition highlights Pakistan’s status as home to one of the largest refugee populations in the world and emphasizes the commitment made by the government, Afghanistan, and UNHCR to repatriate refugees voluntarily. It references various categories of Afghans, such as those with Proof of Registration Cards and Afghan Citizen Cards, who have been allowed to stay in Pakistan as asylum seekers.
The delegation also raises concerns about the harassment of unregistered Afghan refugees and the application of Section 14 of the Foreigners Act 1946. They request that the commission address the forced repatriation of Afghan refugees in accordance with international human rights treaties that prohibit the expulsion of refugees or asylum seekers.
The delegation highlights the slow processing of asylum applications by the UNHCR and the suffering of women and children. They question the application of human rights treaties and argue that the government has not properly processed the documents of many migrants, thereby denying their right to due process.
The commission assured the delegation that their petition would be considered.