Pakistani authorities announced on October 4 that they would deport all illegal immigrants who had not left the country by November 1. State television is counting down the time until November 1 on its screens.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in a statement that the evacuation plan was in line with international standards. According to Islamabad, there are more than 4 million Afghan immigrants and refugees in Pakistan, of which about 1.7 million are undocumented. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, many of them have made up the bulk of the immigrants, but the largest numbers have arrived since the 1979 Soviet invasion.
The threat to expel the migrants comes after suicide bombings this year, which the government blamed on Afghans without providing evidence. Islamabad blamed them for kidnappings and other forms of attacks.
Meanwhile, the only homeland many migrants have known is Pakistan, as well as refuge from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
After November 1, law enforcement officials will begin sending migrants to special centers and then deport them, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bukhti warned. He said women, children and the elderly would be treated with “respect”. Pakistani citizens who provide false identities or help illegal immigrants obtain employment will be prosecuted.
Reuters spoke to refugee families and Pakistani officials, aid workers and lawyers who said Islamabad’s threat had forced even Afghans with sensitive documents to leave. According to migrant advocates, they are being targeted for attack.
Reuters reports that 14,000 Afghans legally residing in Pakistan have left the country by October 18, 2023. This is more than double last year’s total. Most of them fear arrest. Others fear being separated from family members who do not have residence permits.
Afghanistan’s refugee ministry says it will register returnees and then house them in temporary camps. The Taliban administration announced that it was trying to find jobs for the returnees.
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