The media’s focus has centered on the Syrian refugee crisis but other people from other nations, including Pakistani refugees, are fleeing their homelands for a better future in America or Europe.
Because it shares its borders with both Iran and Afghanistan, Pakistan has been embroiled in the Iran and Afghanistan wars with the United States. Many refugees have fled to and from Pakistan due to the ongoing conflict.
Here are 10 facts about Pakistani refugees and asylum in Pakistan:
- Malala Yousafzai is a notable Pakistani refugee who garnered media coverage when she was shot point-blank in 2012. Yousafzai has gone on to advocate for equitable access to education for young women and won a Nobel Prize at fifteen years old in 2015.
- Pakistan was not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defined a refugee as “someone who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality.”
- Pakistan has not been able to establish any nationwide legislation regarding the protection of refugees or procedures to determine whether someone falls into refugee status.
- Pakistan’s lack of legislation regarding refugees means that the provisions of the 1993 Cooperation Agreement, between the government of Pakistan and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), determine any refugee status.
- More than 1.2 million Pakistanis have been affected by military insurgencies in northwest Pakistan.
- Most refugees flee Pakistan by crossing the border on foot into Iran, taking a bus toward Turkey and crossing the Turkish border on foot to avoid border security. From there, it is a matter of finding someone willing to transport the refugees across the Mediterranean Ocean, for a reasonable sum, to land in Greece.
- Even if Pakistanis reach Greece and the relative safety of the European Union, they are not guaranteed decent living conditions, according to some refugees. Instead of being given asylum status, refugees run the risk of being contained in high-security detention facilities or even repatriated to Pakistan.
- Pakistan is not involved in an official war so it is possible that refugees from Pakistan are overlooked. The threat of gangs, mafia and poverty are not seen as “legitimate” causes for creating refugees when compared to an internationally recognized war.
- Pakistan’s government began cracking down on refugees living in their country. UNHCR set aside funds to repatriate 600,000 Afghan refugees as of June 2016. Some families do not want to leave their adopted country — they worry that they will be forcibly deported when their Pakistan Proof of Registration card expires.
- Around 1.6 million refugees live in Pakistan as of June 2016 according to UNHCR.
The refugee system in Pakistan is still in flux and requires more strict legislation be passed to help asylum seekers.
Advocates like Malala Yousafzai are doing great work to bring attention to the plight of Pakistanis fleeing Pakistan but there is still work to do.
You can help by contacting your Congress representatives and letting them know you support increasing the International Affairs Budget that goes to help the world’s poor, which often includes struggling Pakistani refugees.
– Bayley McComb