Sunday February 25, 2024

Pakistan’s Afghans deportation policy discussed with visiting US official

December 06, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghanistan Asif Durrani and Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes, US Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, in their meeting at the Foreign Office on Tuesday focused specifically on Pakistan’s policy of the return to Afghanistan of all undocumented Afghans and those assured by Washington they would be eligible for consideration under the US Refugee Admissions Programme (USRAP).

“It was a pleasure receiving Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes. US Ambassador Donald Blome also joined the meeting. We discussed issues concerning Afghan refugees and their resettlement,” said Ambassador Asif Durrani but refrained from sharing more details of the meeting.

This photo taken on November 23, 2023 shows Afghan refugees climbing on a truck after visiting the UNHCR Azakhel Voluntary Repatriation Centre in Nowshera. — AFP
This photo taken on November 23, 2023 shows Afghan refugees climbing on a truck after visiting the UNHCR Azakhel Voluntary Repatriation Centre in Nowshera. — AFP

Meanwhile, Julieta Valls Noyes, after the meeting, said: “Good to visit Pakistani Foreign Ministry and see Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Asif Durrani again today for discussion on Afghan refugees, protection and resettlement.”

Ambassador Noyes reached Pakistan on Monday from Dubai where she attended COP 28. Noyes’s meeting at the Foreign Office comes after a letter by a group of former US diplomats and representatives of resettlement organizations asking Pakistan not to deport thousands of Afghans who have been waiting for US visas under an American programme that relocates at-risk Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban rule.

Pakistan has made it clear that this particular group of Afghan refugees, including those from the United Kingdom and other Western capitals, have not been repatriated to Afghanistan and continue to live in different cities of Pakistan.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Foreign Office comes in the wake of complaints from the United Nations that forced deportations of Afghans could lead to human rights violations, including separation of families. The charges are denied by Pakistan as it says the focus is on people who are in the country illegally, regardless of their nationality.

Meanwhile, Afghans under the USRAP programme reached out to Ambassador Noyes and in a series of Tweets said that they wanted the US to speed up the process of their journey to the US. “We P1, P2 case holders have been waiting for 26 months here facing dire situation. We worked shoulder to shoulder with US Army and US mission and now live in an absolute uncertainty. Please speed up the process,” tweeted Afghan citizen Raouf Kazi Zardari, a former UNDP official from Kabul.

Taking advantage of the US ambassador in Islamabad, a former Afghan prosecutor Freshta Rezbaan, also under the USRAP, tweeted, “I wanted to respectfully bring your attention to the difficult situation faced by former Afghan prosecutors living in Pakistan. These prosecutors are your allies who have bravely stood by you during the crucial 20-year mission of the US in Afghanistan. These brave men and women deserve support. I sincerely request that during this visit, you specifically discuss the Afghan prosecutors with Pakistani government officials, UNHCR, and other relevant organizations dealing with immigration and refugees. These prosecutors need to be resettled as soon as possible.”