Fear of deportation takes three Afghan refugees’ lives in Capital

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  • Refugee family did not inform emergency department, fearing deportation

ISLAMABAD: Three Afghan refugee children died when a roof collapsed in Tarnol due to heavy downpour and the father of these children could not inform the emergency departments fearing local police’s refugee-threating tactics, Pakistan Today learn Wednesday.

A heavy monsoon downpour in the wee hour of Wednesday wreaked havoc in Islamabad claiming at least three lives, and damaging infrastructure.

The roof collapsed at 3:00 AM in Tarnol’s rural area, resulting in the death three children of the same family. Sarwar, 10; Usman, 7, and Abdullah 4, died as rescue teams could not reach at there on time.

“Mumtaz, an Afghan refugee, father of these children, is a labourer at a brick mill, while his three children also worked there,” said Tarnol PS SHO Sajjad Bukhari, adding that the family was residing there for years.

He could not call any emergency department fearing that they are living in Pakistan without any prior approval [like most Afghans], so calling any department would create more difficulties leading to possible deportation, he said.

Residents say they were not rescued by any organisations as they did not want to let anyone know about the incident; so the locals, without proper equipment came for rescue efforts but failed.

Reportedly, the family was suffering financially and could not afford the concrete roof. They were living at rent.

Additionally, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), the caretakers of capital’s rural area, administration headquarters premises in G-11 were submerged in knee-deep water. That speaks a lot of about rural Islamabad’s capacity to face any natural disaster?

It can be said that monsoons showers caused flash-floods in areas of the twin cities, which had exposed the civic body’s preparations of tackling a catastrophe, even when a prior warning was given.

However, capital authorities remained deaf to these early warnings by the relevant departments.

The concerned authorities have not learned from the last Monsoon flash flood which had put the life in the capital in jeopardy.

MCI’s Emergency and Disaster Management Director Captain (retd) Shahbaz Nadeem told Pakistan Today that several emergency complaints were entertained, including the one with water entering the Chief Commissioner Office; there were five more complaints regarding short circuits, which were also addressed, he said.

“The incident was not reported to the MCI emergency department, so they could not reach there; if they were informed, they could have saved these lives,” he said.

It is important to mention that according to Geneva conventions – Pakistan is a signatory state of it – every human has a right to health services of the country of his presence whenever needed. It is highly likely that the Afghan family was not aware of their rights to medical help, regardless of being an Afghan immigrant in Pakistan.

A fortnight back, on 13th July, heavy rain killed four people, including a baby and a teenage girl, while causing severe damage to several civic facilities.

These constant incidents which have claimed seven lives so far in less than a month put a question mark on the performance of the ICT and MCI.

Islamabad, despite being a planned city, has failed to develop any disaster response system which could rescue lives of people efficiently in case of any disaster.