The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Refugee Agency, the international organisation for migration, and UN Migration Agency Saturday urged Pakistan to continue protecting all “vulnerable Afghans” seeking safety, as they could be at “imminent risk” if forced to return.

The appeal by the multiple humanitarian agencies working for migrants and refugees came after Pakistan issued orders for all illegal migrants to leave its territories before November 1, after which it will begin a crackdown against those found violating the orders.

Islamabad is currently expediting its efforts to repatriate Afghan nationals back to their homeland. Meanwhile, earlier this week, the Foreign Office clarified that Pakistan’s national policy on Afghan refugees remains unchanged.

“We continue to host 1.4 million Afghan refugees with exemplary generosity and empathy despite resource constraints, and economic challenges. As the situation in Afghanistan stabilises, we believe that it is the right time to upscale international efforts to create conditions conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees with honour and dignity,” the FO spokesperson said.

The UNHCR, in its statement, said Afghanistan is going through a severe humanitarian crisis with several human rights challenges, particularly for women and girls.

“Such plans would have serious implications for all who have been forced to leave the country and may face serious protection risks upon return,” it added.

The UN agencies acknowledged Islamabad’s sovereign prerogative over domestic policies, its need to manage populations on its territory, and its obligations to ensure public safety and security.

“UNHCR and IOM have a longstanding and strong collaboration with the Government of Pakistan and stand ready to provide support in developing a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism to register and manage Afghan nationals, including those who may be in need of international protection,” it said in the appeal.

The humanitarian agencies appreciated Pakistan’s generous hospitality towards Afghan nationals for over four decades, despite challenges, and repeated the call for all returns to be voluntary, safe and dignified — without any pressure, to ensure protection for those seeking safety.

However, they also expressed concerns regarding the forced repatriation.

“The forced repatriation of Afghan nationals has the potential to result in severe human rights violations, including the separation of families and deportation of minors,” the statement read

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