UNHCR expresses concern over deportation of 750 Afghans from Dubai
GENEVA, Feb. 26 (UNHCR) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday it was concerned at the deportation over the weekend of about 750 Afghans from Dubai and criticized its lack of access to those expelled.
The agency also said it was "reviewing the circumstances" of the action with the appropriate authorities and called for an end to any further expulsions.
"Without having access to forcible returnees such as these we cannot be sure if there may have been individuals with human rights and refugee protection concerns among the group," a UNHCR spokesman, Kris Janowski, told a news briefing in Geneva.
The agency said that the 750 Afghans, almost all men, were flown back to Kabul on Saturday aboard two Boeing 747 aircraft. It said that with about 1,000 Afghans expelled earlier this year from Iran and Pakistan, Saturday's expulsion almost doubled the number of Afghans forced to return to their homeland.
"This is not the time for any state to deport Afghans," Janowski added. "Returns to Afghanistan must be paced to the country's absorption capacity, and returnees must be given the assistance to rebuild their communities, not simply deposited back in their shattered homeland."
"We are concerned because of the circumstances of the deportation, but also because of the situation inside Afghanistan, which is extremely difficult," Janowski added.
The agency said it understood that those deported were part of a larger group of some 2,500 Afghans who have been imprisoned for more than a year for illegally entering the Gulf Emirate.
"We are reviewing the circumstances of Saturday's mass deportation with the authorities concerned," Janowski said. "We are calling for the suspension of the deportation of Afghans back to their shattered homeland."
The agency said that while it would actively help those who want to return beginning Friday, it had no plans to organize repatriation convoys. UNHCR will register those who want to go home and provide them with return kits including food, as well as with money for transportation.
The refugee agency expects to assist 1.2 million refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes this year.