Closed Door Policy: Afghan Refugees in Pakistan and Iran

Friday, February 1, 2002
Human Rights Watch
Southern Asia

At least three and a half million Afghans are currently refugees in Pakistan and Iran, having been displaced from their homes by more than twenty-two years of civil strife, devastation, and political repression. Recently, thousands more Afghans have entered Pakistan and sought entry to Iran to escape generalized conditions of insecurity, factional conflict, and the U.S.-led bombing campaign that began in October 2001. Despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, many Afghan refugees today fear to return home, recalling the fractious times that characterized the pre-Taliban era in Afghanistan. Some have specific fears linked to their membership in one of Afghanistan's ethnic groups, or their past experience of living under the control of one of Afghanistan's many local commanders. Others are traumatized by recent experience and cannot imagine re-starting life or work in a place where travel down a highway can result in extortion or injury either at the hands of bandits, or of security forces ostensibly under the control of the local commander. While these fears make return to Afghanistan a daunting prospect, Afghan refugees are also experiencing increasingly hostile treatment in Iran and Pakistan and pressure to leave. Mistreatment at the hands of Pakistani or Iranian law enforcement authorities and violence in refugee camps are just some of the problems Afghan refugees face on a daily basis.

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Closed Door Policy: Afghan Refugees in Pakistan and Iran, HRW (2002).