Increasing number of Afghans sent back from Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, forced returns breach international law, says UNHCR.
ISTANBUL (AA) – The United Nations on Wednesday urged all countries to stop deporting Afghans, expressing “profound concern” over escalating risks faced by people in the war-torn country.
“We call on the authorities of all countries to immediately cease the forced return of Afghans, many of whom may be in need of refugee protection,” said the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
It said deportations of Afghans have surged from Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan since August.
According to the UNHCR, an average of 3,000 Afghans were sent back on a daily basis from Iran between August and November, while Pakistan deported 1,800 Afghans between September and October.
It said 23 Afghan asylum seekers, including women and children, were also deported from Tajikistan in the past month.
The deportations are in “contravention of UNHCR’s non-return advisory,” the agency said in a statement.
Since the exit of foreign forces and fall of the US-backed administration in August, hundreds of people have left Afghanistan due to the worsening situation, exacerbated by Washington’s decision to block billions of dollars of Kabul’s foreign reserves.
Multiple international organizations have also warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in the country.
“The dangers of asylum seekers being unable to flee Afghanistan are grave, and in some cases life-threatening,” UNHCR said.
“Around the world, many forced to flee typically do not have the necessary travel permissions and documents that would ordinarily be required. While all countries have a sovereign right to regulate their borders, exceptions must be made for those seeking safety. Allowing them to enter a country even without documentation, to avoid such dangers, is a life-saving humanitarian gesture and the cornerstone of the international asylum system.”
The statement said the UNHCR and its partners have received an increasing number of Afghans seeking asylum in neighboring countries.
“Others still in Afghanistan report hoping to reach neighboring countries to access international protection,” the agency said.
“Whether or not Afghans crossing into neighboring countries have international protection needs can only be decided through a fair and efficient refugee status determination assessment.”
UNHCR reiterated that “forced returns in these circumstances may contravene the principle of nonrefoulement and constitute a serious breach of international law.”