- Illegal immigrants were warned to leave voluntarily or face deportation.
- Pakistan hosted more than 4 million Afghan refugees in the last 40 years.
- PM Kakar says more than one million foreigners have been classified as illegal.
Provincial and federal authorities are set to expel illegal immigrants who have less than 24 hours left to leave Pakistan as the November 1 deadline for “aliens” approaches.
Earlier this month, the Interior Ministry had asked illegal immigrants to voluntarily leave Pakistan by October 31 (today) or face deportation.
The government said the decision was not just focused on illegal Afghan nationals living inside the country, but also included all undocumented and illegal foreigners.
According to caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakkar, Pakistan hosted more than four million Afghan refugees on its soil over the past 40 years under the Geneva Conventions, despite the fact that it was not a signatory to it.
A day earlier he had said that more than one million foreigners classified as illegal were living in Pakistan without legal and valid documents.
According to sources at the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees, illegal Afghan residents continued to return to Afghanistan by crossing the Torkham border.
He said that from October 1 to 28, 4,672 families, comprising 67,604 people, returned to Afghanistan.
He said all the repatriated Afghans were living illegally in Pakistan and the Afghan families were being allowed to return to the neighboring country after completing the legal formalities.
The Taliban government in Afghanistan said about 60,000 Afghans returned from Pakistan between September 23 and October 22, which announced on October 4 that it would expel undocumented migrants who would not leave.
Taliban refugee ministry spokesman Abdul Mutaleb Haqqani said recent daily return figures were three times higher than normal. reuters On 26 October.
Near Karachi’s Sohrab Goth area – one of Pakistan’s largest Afghan settlements – a bus service operator named Azizullah said he had added extra services to cope with the exodus. Nearby, lines formed ahead of competing bus services to Afghanistan.
“Earlier I used to ride one bus a week, now we have four to five buses a week,” said Azizullah, who – like all Afghan migrants reuters Interviewed – spoke on the condition that they would only be identified by one name due to the sensitivity of the matter.
‘Eviction of illegal residents from November 3’
Punjab IG Usman Anwar said that he is in touch with the authorities concerned for the return of illegal immigrants and phased evacuation of illegal immigrants will start across the province from November 3.
He said illegal residents would be evicted from Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Lahore and other areas of the province.
The Punjab IG said the illegal residents would be expelled from the province through designated points and would be kept in “holding centres” before eviction.
‘Evacuation plan in line with international standards’
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said the expulsion plan was in line with international norms and principles.
“Our record over the last forty years of hosting millions of Afghan brothers and sisters speaks for itself.”
According to Islamabad, Pakistan is home to more than 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, of whom about 1.7 million are undocumented.
Afghans make up the largest share of migrants – many arrived after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion.
The expulsion threat came after a spate of suicide bombings this year that the government said involved Afghans.
Islamabad has also blamed him for smuggling and other terrorist attacks.
Cash-strapped Pakistan, grappling with record inflation and a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program, also said decades of undocumented migrants have drained its resources.
surge in returns
In early September, an average of 300 people crossed the border into Afghanistan per day, according to international organizations working on migration issues, which provided data on the condition that they not be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter. After Islamabad announced the November deadline, crossings increased to about 4,000, the organizations said.
These figures are small compared to the number of people likely to be affected in the coming days. The information minister of Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan, told Reuters it was opening three more border crossings.
For several weeks, state-owned PTV has been running a countdown to November 1 at the top of its screens.
Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti warned that law enforcement agencies would begin deporting “illegal immigrants who … have no justification” from Pakistan after Tuesday.
He told reporters that they would be processed in “holding centers” and then deported, adding that women, children and the elderly would be treated “respectfully”.
Bugti warned that Pakistani citizens who help undocumented migrants obtain false identities or obtain employment will face legal action.