BANGKOK, 19 November 2021 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed at the deportation of Afghan asylum-seekers by the Tajik authorities this week. 11 men, women and children were forcibly returned to Afghanistan on 11 November, prior to any examination of their claims for asylum and protection.
UNHCR is also concerned about increasing obstacles for Afghan citizens seeking safety and access to asylum procedures in Tajikistan more generally. At the end of July, local authorities suspended the issuance of residence permits to all newly arrived Afghans, despite the fact that such documentation is a prerequisite to applications for asylum. In addition, the State RSD Commission has suspended its work in reviewing asylum applications for refugee status. These barriers to asylum have left newly arrived Afghans undocumented in the country, and subject to fines, possible arrest and deportation.
UNHCR calls on the Tajik authorities to abstain from any return of Afghan asylum-seekers to Afghanistan, and to resume procedures for legal residence and refugee status determination immediately. Under international and national refugee and human rights law, Tajikistan remains obliged to provide access to its territory to those seeking international protection.
UNHCR has released a global non-return advisory for Afghanistan, calling for a bar on forced returns of all Afghan nationals since August. Whether or not Afghans crossing into neighbouring countries have international protection needs can only be decided through a fair and efficient refugee status determination assessment. As such, it is not possible to assess whether those returned fear persecution and human rights violations in Afghanistan. Forced returns in these circumstances may place asylum-seekers at risk of persecution upon return and accordingly, constitute a serious breach of international law.
UNHCR remains concerned about the risk of human rights violations against civilians in this evolving context, including women and girls, those perceived to have a current or past association with the former Afghan government, international organisations or with the international military forces.