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Around The World, Refugees are Being Expelled from Host Communities

Updated: Jun 10

Article by Wardah Malik | May 29, 2024 | Global Rights Defenders


In 2023, the world witnessed a series of refugee expulsions. After months of harassing refugees, the Pakistani government announced the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan demanding over 3 million Afghans residing in Pakistan to return to Afghanistan [1]. Over the course of a year, Pakistan has subjected Afghan refugees - some of whom lived in the country for decades - to arbitrary arrests and deportation threats. According to Human Rights Watch, police and other state officials forced out nearly 400,000 Afghans by the end of 2023 [2].

 

As of May 2024, it seems the bulk of expulsions have been carried out and Pakistan has adopted a more lenient approach. On April 26, Pakistan announced what seems to be a brief pause in expulsions, allowing refugees with proper documentation to stay in Pakistan until June 2024 [3]. Since then, human rights defenders and international bodies have worked tirelessly to promote basic rights and services for refugees.

 

Given Pakistan's history of hosting Afghans, the process of expelling them is layered and complex. Many cite security concerns as the primary reason for such a drastic policy adoption, arguing that public attitudes on refugee-hosting have shifted as many no longer feel the same generosity they did when the first wave of Afghans arrived in Pakistan. Economic difficulties, inter-community tensions, and increased bombings have all added to this negative public sentiment. The government has capitalized on changing attitudes by turning public opinion into actionable policy - a phenomenon now increasingly common in refugee-hosting countries.

 

In June 2023, the Egyptian government announced that all citizens, including women, children, and the elderly, fleeing from neighboring Sudan require visas before claiming asylum [4]. Although the move was implemented in order to reduce illegal activities, many human rights experts believe it is a measure to selectively choose who enters Egypt. Delaying refuge to people who are fleeing conflict leaves them vulnerable to inhumane conditions. A recent study details the brutality Egyptian border security forces subject Sudanese refugees to, failing to provide them water and other necessities while they wait in long lines [5]. Like Pakistan, Egypt does not have the infrastructure to accommodate an influx of refugees, yet people continue to flood its borders. In response, Egyptians are pushing forward an anti-migrant stance.

 

Assaults on refugees are also common in Indonesia where authorities pushback boats carrying ethnic Rohingya refugees [6]. In Aceh, locals gather in massive hoards to protest refugee arrivals, claiming that resources are stretched. The same rhetoric that appears in Pakistan and Egypt is echoed in Indonesia: refugees are a drain on the economy, they are a hostile group, and they are unwanted. This inflammatory language - found both on and offline - paints refugees as a burden [7]. Overtime, this depiction could result in the employment of restrictive asylum and immigration policies.

 

Beyond aid pledges, host communities are not given the support they need to ensure the safety of refugees. Easing the pressures on countries like Pakistan, Egypt, and Indonesia requires a thorough consideration of what would change the perception of refugees in society. Arguably, the most important factor is increasing the earning capabilities of refugees so that the burden claim becomes void. In line with the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees, the international community, including aid and humanitarian groups, must introduce new, adaptive measures that alleviate tensions between host and refugee community.

 

How We Can Help

●      Raise awareness on increased refugee deportations around the world by engaging with advocacy groups and your local governments.

 

References

 

[1] UNHCR. (2023, December 21). Emergency Update #7: Pakistan-Afghanistan Return Response. https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/105620

 

 

[3] Arab News Pakistan. (2024, April 26). Pakistan extends Afghan refugee cards until June 30 amid deportation drive. https://arab.news/c2zbv .

 

[4] Human Rights Watch. (2023, July 13). Egypt: Civilians Fleeing Sudan Conflict Turned Away.

 

[5] The New Arab. (2024, March 28). Rights groups urge Egypt to end 'serious abuses' of Sudanese refugees. https://www.newarab.com/news/egypt-urged-end-serious-abuses-sudanese-refugees .

 

[6] Human Rights Watch. (2024, January 16). Indonesia: Protect Newly Arrived Rohingya Refugees.

 

[7] The Guardian. (2024, January 18). The online hate campaign turning Indonesians against Rohingya refugees. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/18/the-online-hate-campaign-turning-indonesians-against-rohingya-refugees.

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