ISLAMABAD: The United States urged Pakistan on Tuesday to fulfil its obligations toward asylum seekers let Afghan nationals seeking international protection enter its territory amid a deportation drive launched by the administration in Islamabad since the beginning of this month.
Last month, the Pakistani government warned all illegal immigrants, mostly Afghans, to voluntarily leave the country or face forced expulsion after the November 1 deadline. Subsequently, tens of thousands of unregistered Afghans returned to their homeland amid criticism leveled by rights organizations who said many of them faced danger to their lives.
According to official estimates, nearly 1.73 million Afghans have been illegally residing in Pakistan and need to return to their country. These people are over and above 4.4 million registered Afghan refugees that have been sheltered by the country for several decades, though many of them also blamed the Pakistani authorities of harassing them despite being in possession of all the required documents.
“We join partners in urging all states, including Pakistan, to uphold their respective obligations in their treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and to respect the principle of non-refoulement,” Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, said during his media briefing.
“We strongly encourage Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, to allow entry for Afghans seeking international protection and to coordinate with the appropriate international humanitarian organizations,” he added.
The principle of non-refoulement is a fundamental tenet of international refugee law that prohibits the return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.
It was codified in the 1951 Refugee Convention and is considered part of customary international law that is binding on all states, whether or not they have ratified the convention.
Pakistan issued the sudden expulsion order against illegal migrants on October 3 after a string of suicide bombings this year that its officials said had involved Afghans.
However, the Taliban administration in Kabul has disputed the claim, saying Afghan nationals were not responsible for Pakistan’s security problem and were mostly abiding by local laws.