“KILL US” – Hundreds of Afghan Refugees at Silent Protest in Islamabad Seek UNHCR’s Attention

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Tazeen Akhtar

Hundreds of Afghan Refugees are sitting outside of National Press Club Islamabad for more than one month with one demand to the decision makers of the world and United Nations High Commission for Refugees to KILL them. They are protesting silently in the scorching sun of May in the capital and do not share the list of their demands. They say the policy makers of the world and UNHCR representatives should themselves see what are our miseries and problems.

The protestors are wearing the dresses on which KILL US is written in red ink. When media persons ask them about their demands, they reply “KILL US”.

They started their silent protest in Ramazan and it is still going on every day without any gap. They had “Sehries” and “Iftaries” at the same place. Now when the hottest weather is on in Islamabad, the protestors are not ready to take a break.

Mr. Zia is the  leader of the protestors who can not understand Urdu. I discussed the matter with him through a translator on 16 May.

” We are here to seek the attention of UNHCR to solve our problems. Our problem is mainly that we can not live in present condition. Therefore we demand UNHCR to just KILL US.” Mr. Zia shared.

According to UNHCR, Pakistan hosts more than 1.4 million registered Afghans who have been forced to flee their homes. More Afghans had to leave their homeland after Taliban’s take over in Aug 2021. UNHCR is responsible for working with the Pakistani authorities to give refugees access to health and education services, strengthening social cohesion between refugees and their host communities and helping refugees who decide voluntarily to return home. This year UNHCR will help some 54,000 children to enroll in primary schools and continue to ensure the rights of registered Afghan refugees are protected. But the refugees are not satisfied with the performance of UNHCR.

The protestors include women, children and elderly people with no proper shelter, food, water etc. Some of them have make shift tents but majority is sitting under the open sky, exposed to burning heat and other severe weather and environment conditions.

The protestors are mostly those who arrived Paki­stan to move to USA and European countries under refugee resettlement program. More than 100,000 urban Afghans have arrived in the country on valid visas. They want to have status of Asylum Seekers as Refugee Status that has already been ruled out by Pakistan.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmed Khan says that every day the mission was issuing 700 to 1,000 multiple entry visas to Afghans. He said in a recent interview that Pakistan is issuing visa more liberally than any neighboring country.But if they (Afghans) want their status to be converted into a refugee status, that will not happen nor will we allow it.

Many asylum-seekers said they would prefer to stay in Islamabad while waiting for their visas for destinations in the West, instead of returning to Afghanistan.

 

 

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