pakistan orders illegal migrants to leave, including 1.7 million afghans
Pakistan has jumped into the bandwagon of countries saying illegal migrants are unwelcome. In a major crackdown, the Pakistan government is set to expel thousands of foreigners, including 1.7 million Afghans, living in the country without proper documentation.
Sarfraz Bugti, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, said this applies to all nationalities and is not aimed at Afghanis. He said the migrants staying illegally in Pakistan should go back to their countries voluntarily before the end of the month.
“All illegal immigrants residing in Pakistan have until November 1 to return to their countries voluntarily. And if they fail to leave by the deadline, all our state law enforcement agencies will unleash an operation with full-throttle to deport them.”
Not Aimed at Afghans
The minister clarified that the government’s crackdown wasn’t aimed at Afghanis. However, the majority of the illegal migrants living in Pakistan are Afghanis. Bugti said Afghans may enter Pakistan only with a valid passport and visa starting November 1.
Islamabad’s swift decision comes after a surge in terrorist attacks in the country. Sources believe the crackdown on illegal migrants is actually aimed at militants. Bugti highlighted that since January 2023, there have been 24 suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan, whereby 14 such strikes were carried out by Afghan nationals. The Interior minister added that eight of the 11 militants who raided two Pakistani military installations in Baluchistan province were Afghans.
The Pakistan government has evidence of Afghans being involved in these attacks. Islamabad is taking this up through the Pakistani foreign ministry with Taliban authorities in Afghanistan.
Afghan Refugees Will Not Be Deported
Bugti pointed out that Afghans who have been residing in Pakistan as “officially designated refugees” will not be deported; this is more than 1.4 million. Moreover, 850,000 Afghan citizen card holders will also not be targeted. He said the government would issue only as many visas as it can manage if would be Afghan deportees would like to come back to the country.
However, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is not comfortable with Pakistan’s plans. Qaisar Khan Afridi, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, said any refugee return must be voluntary, without any pressure to ensure protection for those seeking safety. He said Islamabad has been generously hosting refugees for more than 40 years.
The UNHCR urged Pakistan to put in place a mechanism to ensure that Afghans with international protection are not deported.