UN Photo/Loey Felipe

It is dangerous for Afghan Refugees to Cross Border to Renew Their Visas, Warns Amnesty International

In an open letter to Shahbaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, has expressed concern about the lives and safety of Afghan refugees in that country.

In this letter, she stated that Pakistan has hosted more Afghan refugees than any other country in the world, and for that reason, the country should be commended.

Agnes Callamard wrote that she is more concerned about the lives and safety of Afghan refugees who have reached Pakistan since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.

She added that Amnesty International has realized that those Afghan citizens who went to Pakistan with or without a visa are facing serious challenges due to the lack of processes to legalize their stay, discrimination and restrictions.

Kalamar said Amnesty International is concerned about the long-term legal uncertainty of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. According to her, Pakistan lacks legislation to protect refugees and asylum seekers. The country also has no specific legal procedure for determining refugee status, she added.

The Secretary-General of Amnesty International has said that without documents, Afghan citizens living in Pakistan are mostly unable to access housing because they cannot convince landlords to rent them a house. These refugees cannot open bank accounts to receive money and they cannot even buy SIM cards, the letter further reads.

In her letter, she said that Afghan citizens who entered Pakistan with a visa must renew their visa regularly, which according to reports will require them to re-enter Afghanistan.

According to the Secretary General of Amnesty International, the return of refugees to Afghanistan is both costly and dangerous. Many Afghan citizens who entered Pakistan on visas are human rights defenders, journalists or well-known government officials and are at risk of persecution by the Taliban, stressed Agnes Callamard in the letter.

In her letter, Agnes Callamard mentioned that two refugees, Faiz and Kazemi, were arrested and imprisoned in Rawalpindi since June 22, 2022, for protesting discrimination, legal uncertainty and the arrest of Afghan refugees. According to reports, Faiz was recently hospitalized due to a hunger strike aimed at drawing attention to the plight of Afghans in Pakistan.

Amnesty International calls on the government of Pakistan to provide Afghans with a means to regularize their stay in the country and to give them access to services without discrimination, including education for children and health care.

Amnesty International has also requested the Pakistani government to allow Afghan refugees to get employed so that they can make a living while staying in the country.

In the letter, Amnesty International emphasized that the Pakistani government should not require Afghan in need of visa renewals to cross the border into Afghanistan.

This organization said that it is vital that the Pakistani government no to deport Afghan refugees under any circumstances as they may face serious risks of human rights violations.