GENEVA (Reuters) – UN human rights experts on Tuesday called on Pakistan to refrain from deporting Afghan nationals after Islamabad ordered all illegal immigrants, including 1.73 million Afghan citizens, to leave or face expulsion.
Pakistani authorities, who have given illegal immigrants until Nov. 1 to leave, linked the measures to their allegations that Afghan nationals were involved in several suicide bombings this year.
“We urge Pakistan to uphold the absolute and non-derogable principle of non-refoulement and prevent collective expulsion and forced return,” the experts, a group of U.N. special rapporteurs, said in a statement.
“The lack of domestic asylum laws and procedures does not absolve states of their obligations to uphold the principle of non-refoulement under international human rights and customary law.”
Pakistan has received the largest influx of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Kabul in 1979.
Pakistan’s diplomatic mission to the U.N. in Geneva did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the experts’ statement.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said this month that some 1.73 million Afghan nationals in Pakistan had no legal documents to stay, while the country was home to a total of 4.4 million Afghan refugees.
Islamabad accuses Islamist militants of using Afghan soil to train fighters and plan attacks inside Pakistan, a charge Kabul denies.
The U.N. experts said Pakistan should continue to host Afghan nationals who fled for safety and stop forced returns.
“We are also concerned by reports that Afghans living in Pakistan have been subjected to arrests, exploitation and undignified treatment, including since Pakistan announced its repatriation plans,” they said.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Grant McCool)