The UN Refugee Agency has raised an alarm over images and reports of the arrest and detention of Afghan refugees in Pakistan's Sindh province. "UNHCR is extremely concerned to see images and reports of the arrest and detention of Afghan @refugees in Sindh province, particularly Karachi. Irrespective of their status, children and families should not be behind bars," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mission in Pakistan said on Twitter on Thursday.
On Friday, Sindh Minister Sharjeel Memon said 129 Afghan female illegal immigrants were jailed in the province -- with 178 children -- but insisted the minors were not under arrest, the Dawn reported. During a press conference in Karachi, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader said the 178 children "staying with their mothers in jails are not under arrest".
The UN Refugee Agency said people should not be punished or criminaliSed for exercising their fundamental human right to seek asylum. It also urged countries neighbouring Afghanistan, including Pakistan, to continue to protect those seeking safety. "(The) UNHCR has globally called on states to suspend forcible returns of Afghan nationals and former habitual residents of Afghanistan until such time as the security, rule of law and human rights situation in Afghanistan has significantly improved," the Commission said.
"In this respect, UNHCR's Guidance Note on International Protection Needs of People Fleeing Afghanistan underscores the importance of allowing civilians fleeing Afghanistan to access safety and to ensure respect for the principle of non-refoulement at all times," it added.