HRW to Pakistan: Extend residency status for Afghans
KABUL (Pajhwok): Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday asked the Pakistani government to reduce rights violations against Afghan refugees by extending their legal residency status until December 31, 2017,
On June 29, 2016, Islamabad extended registered Afghan refugees’ Proof of Residency (PoR) cards for another six months, until the end of 2016. The decision taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is yet to be endorsed by his cabinet.
In a statement, HRW said the uncertain residency status of Afghan refugees in Pakistan had encouraged police harassment, threatsand extortion, particularly since the December 2014 attack on a Peshawar school.
“The Pakistani government’s move to extend Afghan refugees’ residency until the end of 2016 sends an important signal to police and local officials not to harass or coerce Afghan refugees to leave,” said PhelimKine, deputy Asia director at HRW.
“But an extension to the end of 2017 would allow more time for the situation in Afghanistan to stabilize so that it would be more feasible for them to return in safety and dignity,”Kine added.
The six-month extension fell far short of the December 31, 2017 date recommended by the Ministry for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) and failed to address the insecurity among refugees, the rights group believed.
Police in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province announced on June 28 the arrests of more than 2,000 Afghan “illegal settlers.” Afghan refugees in that provincealso face major restrictions on their right to freedom of movement.
HRW also referred to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government spokesmanMushtaqGhani’swarnning that all Afghan refugees would be restricted to their camps and would not be allowed to move freely in the province.
KP police reported on June 29 arresting at least 500 registered Afghan refugees and forcibly deporting them on the grounds that they were a perceived security risk.
Afghans in Pakistan have experienced a sharp increase in hostility since the so-called Pakistani Taliban, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, killing 145 people.
The Pakistani government responded to the attack with repressive measures, including the introduction of military courts to prosecute terrorism suspects, and proposals to register and repatriate Afghans living there.
“Pakistan’s government should protect Afghan refugees from vindictive reprisals linked to cross-border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Kine said.
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