Afghanistan refugees stranded in Islamabad plea for protection amid safety concerns

Afghanistan refugees stranded in Islamabad following the Taliban takeover have in an open letter appealed to the Pakistani government and the UNHCR to provide them with legal protection amid mounting concerns over their safety.

The letter sent to KabulNow by the Afghanistan Immigrants Council in Islamabad comes following reports of arbitrary arrests and harassment of hundreds of refugees at the hands of Pakistani police and law enforcement agencies in recent months.

The letter highlights that these refugees fled to Pakistan when the Taliban seized power in August 2021, and are currently awaiting resettlement while their cases are being processed, including those who hold SIV, P1, and P2 visa applications.

The letter has urged the Pakistani authorities to address the legal challenges of these refugees, most of whom are staying on temporary visas or whose visas have expired.

“We demand the Pakistani government to recognize us as refugees according to international human rights law and provide us legal staying documents until our cases are being processed to target countries,” the letter states.

“The government should provide visas for those refugees who require them and pay off the fine after exiting the country.”

Moreover, the Afghanistan Immigrants Council has expressed complaints about how UNHCR handles refugee documents.

“The Afghan refugees are not satisfied with the work process of the UNHCR office in Islamabad. If they do not pay attention when the refugees are forcefully deported to Afghanistan, the greatest human disaster will occur, and the next responsibility will be directed to the UNHCR office,” the letter asserted.

“UNHCR should provide refugee cards to Afghan refugees. If that is not possible, they must convince the police of Pakistan to accept the SHARP office token as an authentic refugee document.” the letter continued.

The Afghanistan Migration Council has further urged the United Nations to take action by persuading the US and other countries to accept refugees and expedite their applications. They also emphasized the dire need to swiftly relocate these refugees from Pakistan to their intended destination countries.

“If they cannot provide us our refugee rights, please provide us a legal guarantee that our life is safe and we go back to our origin country.” The Council lamented in the letter.

According to the UN, over 600,000 citizens of Afghanistan have fled to Pakistan in recent years, bringing the number of these refugees in the country to 3.7 million. Only 1.32 million of these refugees are registered with UNHCR.