Pakistan has taken a decisive step to expel over a million undocumented immigrants, giving them until November 1 to voluntarily leave the country or face deportation. The initiative, which affects an estimated 1.7 million Afghan nationals among others, is part of Pakistan’s broader effort to address illegal immigration issues and resource strain.
Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti emphasized Pakistan’s resolve to remove all illegal immigrants, stressing that there would be no deadline extensions. He also cautioned that action would be taken against those who aid or harbor undocumented immigrants.
“All the illegal immigrants have been identified. The state has complete data,” said Mr. Bugti, highlighting the comprehensive approach taken by the authorities. “I want to appeal one more time that all the illegal immigrants should leave voluntarily by the deadline,” he added.
The category of “illegal immigrants” encompasses a significant number of Afghan migrants and refugees. Out of Pakistan’s over 4 million Afghan migrants, roughly 1.7 million lack proper documentation. Afghans constitute the largest group of migrants in Pakistan, with many arriving after the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in 2021, while others have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion.
Facing significant economic challenges, including record inflation and engagement in a demanding International Monetary Fund bailout program, Pakistani officials have accused undocumented migrants of straining the nation’s resources over the years. Additionally, Islamabad has attributed numerous bombings in the country this year to Afghan nationals.
Mr. Bugti stressed the gravity of the situation, stating, “There are no two opinions that we are attacked from within Afghanistan, and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us. We have evidence.” He also warned that if the immigrants choose not to leave voluntarily, law enforcement agencies at the provincial and federal levels would be deployed for deportation.
Pakistan’s approach includes assisting those who voluntarily leave the country. However, authorities have issued a stern warning that individuals found in Pakistan without legal status after the deadline will be subject to arrest.
The Pakistani government has clarified that its focus is solely on individuals in the country without proper documentation, regardless of their nationality. It reassured the 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees that they need not worry about deportation.
Deportation centers have been established in various provinces to facilitate the process. In response to the crackdown, more than 60,000 Afghans have already returned home, according to Azam Khan, the caretaker chief minister for the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistan’s actions have faced condemnation from several quarters, including diplomats and representatives who have termed the move as “harassment.” The United Nations and former US diplomats, along with representatives of resettlement organizations, have expressed concerns about potential human rights violations, including family separations, resulting from the crackdown. The situation remains a subject of international attention and scrutiny.
Sources By Agencies