Peshawar: Police in Peshawar deported thousands of Afghan refugees in the last week of July alone, figures obtained from the Capital City Police office reveal.

Police department records on July 26 show the number of Afghans deported for the month at 500. By August 1, the  figure had shot up to 2000. 

The government’s decision to send back Afghan refugees is at the heart of increasingly sour relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent months. Pakistan says refugee settlements are havens for terrorists as it pushes for speedy repatriation.

Since January police have detained more than 9,000 Afghans. There has been a sharp rise in cases of deportation in recent weeks. 

Incidents of discrimination and abuse of Afghan refugees by law enforcement agencies have registered a sharp rise in the aftermath of the attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar in December 2014. The attack, in which 147 students were killed, was carried out by militants based in Afghanistan.

In January the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province started a wave of arrests, detaining illegal Afghans and deporting those without legal registration.

“We have clear orders to deport those without Proof or Registration cards,” Abbas Majeed Marwat, Senior Superintendent Police, told News Lens Pakistan.

Among the Afghans arrested last month in Peshawar is Uzair Ullah, a student of MBA in Peshawar’s leading business school Institute of Management Sciences (IMSciences). He was arrested on July 25 while going back home from the university. He was locked in the University Town Police Station along with nine other Afghan refugees.

“I showed the police my university card and told them I have all my documents at home but they would not listen and locked me up in jail,” Uzair Ullah told News Lens.

Khalid Amiri, a student and President of Afghan Students Federation in the University of Peshawar, said Afghan refugees in Peshawar were going through a tough time.

“Police harassment [of refugees] has reached unprecedented levels,” said Amiri. “Every single day, they pick up youth going to education institutes.”

“I’ve seen elderly men arrested, handcuffed and taken away in police vans. Police no longer differentiated between those who possessed a Proof of Registration (PoR) card and those who did not,” Amiri said.

“The Pakistan government has allowed us to stay in Pakistan till December 2016 so why are the police not letting Afghans live freely as they are not breaking any law nor involved in any crime?” he said.

“I think Pakistan should not waste its hospitality and support for refugees for 30 years by saying goodbye to refugees in such an insulting way.” 

Since March 2002, UNHCR has facilitated the return of approximately 3.9 million registered Afghans from Pakistan but around 1.6 million remain, the second largest refugee population in the world.  

A hardening of stance towards Afghan refugees that started with the APS incident was further deepened by the ill-feelings between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of recent border tensions in June.

Gul Badeen, an Afghan who runs a carpet shop in Peshawar’s Karkhano Market said he had invested millions of rupees in his business. “Now the government wants us to leave our business and property and go back to Afghanistan. We have been living in Peshawar for the last 20 years but now life has become very difficult for us.”

UNHCR Spokesperson Dunya Aslam Khan said Pakistan had extended stay of Afghan refugees till December 2016.

When asked about the harassment of Afghan refugees, she said UNHCR had asked Pakistan government to direct law enforcement agencies to cooperate with legal Afghan refugees.

According to new rules introduced by KP Home and Tribal Affair Department, Afghans travelling to Pakistan must now obtain a visa, SSP Marwat said.

“Those who wish to do business or get education here will have to seek a No Objection Certificate from the authorities.”


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