The NCHR recently released a report on the plight of over 500 Afghan women and children detained in Karachi’s Central Jail. In the wake of the NHRC report, the petition has urged the commission to restrain the federal government from detaining or forcefully deporting Afghan asylum-seekers. The petition, which has been filed under Section 9 of the NCHR Act 2012, contends that under the law, those Afghan refugees whose applications for asylum are still pending before the UNHCR can neither be detained nor deported.
The petitioner, Umer Ijaz Gilani, a lawyer based in Islamabad, told Voicepk.net that he had interviewed around 100 Afghan nationals seeking asylum in Pakistan after the Taliban government took power in Kabul. “The testimonies of these Afghan nationals show that they are facing daily difficulties primarily because the UNHCR is not processing their asylum applications with speed,” he said.
In the meantime, the Pakistani authorities are also not promptly renewing visas, putting the applicants at the risk of deportation and detention under the Foreigners Act, 1946, Gilani added.
“Even when their visas are renewed, they face extortion at the hand of agents. All of this amounts to human rights violation of asylum-seekers by Pakistani authorities.”
Speaking to Voicepk.net, NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javed Agha said the commission had written to the federal government, requesting the relevant authorities to expedite the deportation of Afghan nationals detained under the Foreigners Act of 1946, which allows deportation prior to completion of sentence.
NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javed Agha revealed that the overwhelming majority of Afghan women and children detained in Karachi jail wanted to return to their homeland.
“The report prepared by NCHR in collaboration with the Legal Aid Office found over 500 Afghan women and children are being detained in Central Jail, Karachi,” Agha said in her letter to the federal government on December 23.
“The key findings of the report were that over 77% of Afghans being held wished to return home and the sudden influx of Afghan detainees is forcing the jail to function far above its capacity of 300 inmates and is acting as a severe strain on prison resources,” she further said.
It is in the best interest of all parties involved that Afghan nationals in Karachi Central Jail are able to return home to Afghanistan at the earliest as requested by them, Agha said.
“The only thing these detained Afghan women and children said they wanted was to return to Afghanistan,” Agha told Voicepk.net.
NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javed Agha confirmed that the commission has received the petition urging for a ban on the forced deportation of Afghan nationals. “The NHRC office would be looking into the petition in the coming week,” she added.
In a tweet on December 29, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan, said that is extremely concerned to see images and reports of the arrest and detention of Afghan refugees in Sindh province, particularly Karachi.
“The UNHCR continues to work with the Government of Pakistan, to protect and assist those seeking safety,” the tweet added.