21 Apr 2024

Government agrees to raise concerns about forcible deportation of Afghans with Pakistan

6:39 pm on 21 April 2024

Detained Afghan refugees sit in a van during a search operation to identify alleged illegal immigrants, on the outskirts of Karachi on November 17, 2023. More than 200,000 people have crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan, Pakistani border officials said, the vast majority since an October ultimatum given to the 1.7 million Afghans Islamabad said were living illegally in the country. (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP)

Detained Afghan refugees sit in a van during a search operation to identify alleged illegal immigrants, on the outskirts of Karachi on 17 November, 2023. Photo: AFP / Asif Hassan

The government has promised to raise concerns about the forcible deportation of Afghans with Pakistan.

World Vision wrote to ministers in February, asking they engage with the Pakistan government to stop its foreigners repatriation plan.

The policy will see 1.7 million undocumented foreigners leave by 1 November, or face arrest and deportation.

Many Afghan refugees fled Afghanistan after the Taliban retook control in 2021, while others have been in Pakistan for decades.

In a letter in February, World Vision asked the New Zealand government to engage with the Pakistan government to stop the forced returns.

It also asked the government resettle Afghan refugees with family in New Zealand and provide humanitarian funding to help efforts at the border.

In a joint response, Ministry of Foreign affairs Winston Peters and Immigration Minister Erica Stanford said officials would raise the issue with their Pakistan counterparts.

"New Zealand is deeply concerned about the risk of human rights violations that may be inflicted on Afghans deported under Pakistan's Illegal Foreigners' Repatriation Plan, as announced in October last year.

"We have taken careful note of your request that New Zealand engage with the Government of Pakistan and have asked officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to raise the issue with Pakistani officials at the next appropriate opportunity."

World Vision country programme manager Andrew Robinson said the response was encouraging but the government needed to move quickly.

"We've had a lull as the winter became incredibly extreme, where numbers have slowed down coming across the border but we've heard reports the government of Pakistan wants to resume at pace the expulsion of Afghans from Pakistan in April.

"So it's really important that those conversations happen sooner rather than later."

Robinson said World Vision was particularly concerned about children being forced back into Afghanistan.

"They're returning to a country that is really on its knees," she said.

"This is not a crisis that is well known. It hasn't really received a lot of attention, given other world events, but it is impacting up to 1.4 million people half of whom are children.

"So we're really grateful that we can bring this to the attention of our government and that they have promised action."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs