Dozens of Afghans who fled the Taliban and seek refuge in Brazil are being barred by the Pakistani government, unable to travel, despite having a humanitarian visa issued by Itamaraty, air ticket and the negative Covid-19 PCR test required for boarding.
As Brazil does not have diplomatic representation in Afghanistan, those who want to request the document need to go through an interview at the embassies of neighboring countries, including the one in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad — which has been the main point of request for a Brazilian visa.
To get there, the Afghans are forced to face a dangerous journey, which involves the risk of being captured by the Taliban and the requirement to pay bribes — high in dollar amounts — at the border, according to several reports. Many of them were unable to obtain the necessary visas to enter Pakistan and crossed the border irregularly, as is common in humanitarian crises of this type.
But the Pakistani government requires an exit visa for people traveling to other countries, and the document is only granted to those who entered legally.
Until now, given the crisis situation, Islamabad was accepting the lists sent by the Brazilian embassy with the names of people who had been approved in the process of obtaining the humanitarian visa – which involves filling out a form, submitting documentation and undergoing a face-to-face interview, among others procedures.
This week, however, Pakistani policy has changed, and dozens of Afghans are being stopped at the airport, unable to travel to Brazil. Many belong to groups accompanied by Brazilian NGOs, which have mounted rescue operations for women, human rights activists and minorities who are the main target of the Taliban. Others travel alone or with family members, some of them to meet relatives who already live as refugees in the country.
Pakistan had already warned that it would tighten its grip on Afghans who entered the country irregularly. A statement from the Brazilian embassy in Islamabad circulated among NGOs and other rescue groups saying that, as of November 5, the local government would reverse its previously adopted policy and would no longer legalize Afghans who crossed the border illegally or allow them to board flights. , even with a verbal note (an official letter) from a foreign embassy.
“According to the representative of the Crisis Management Unit (CMU), of the Pakistani chancellery, the change is justified by the excessive number of people who violate Pakistani laws, immigrating illegally and the need to curb this practice,” says the note.
The text also states that, according to the new determination, the embassies should send by the 5th a consolidated list of people who crossed illegally and who received or will receive a humanitarian visa, who may be interviewed by the Ministry of Interior and released to leave the country. The others would be subject to deportation if discovered.
The Brazilian diplomatic mission made a list containing from 500 to 600 names. This Tuesday (9), however, an official from the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that he would not deport the people on the list, but he would also not give them exit visas, according to Itamaraty sources who agreed to give an interview without identifying themselves.
These Afghans are, therefore, in limbo: without knowing if and when they will be able to embark for Brazil, they cannot return to their country of origin or leave Pakistan. Some fear retaliation from Taliban living in Islamabad.
A sheet questioned the Pakistani embassy in Brazil about the situation of these people, but received no response until the publication of this report.
Since the Taliban came to power, obtaining a visa to enter Pakistan has become more difficult. The most recent reports are that the issuance of the document has become normal and that the situation is more complicated, especially for those who do not have a passport. But many of those who fled at the beginning of the crisis do not have an entry stamp.
Refuge is a legal protection for people who migrate due to persecution related to race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. In December 2020, Brazil recognized the situation of “serious and widespread violation of human rights” in Afghanistan, something that speeds up the process of obtaining refuge for citizens of that country.
You can only make this request, however, when you are already in Brazil, and for the trip, Afghans need a visa.
The Brazilian government approved the humanitarian visa for Afghans on September 3, along the lines of the document that already exists for Syrians and Haitians.