On Thursday, Sarfraz Bugti, Pakistan’s temporary Interior Minister, declared that all unofficial immigrants have to leave the country by November 1. This includes a sizeable portion of individuals from Afghanistan. The timeline is a result of Pakistan’s resolve to clear out anyone occupying their land without appropriate paperwork.
- This move was initiated after it was discovered that Afghan nationals were implicated in crimes, including 14 out of 24 suicide bombings in the country this year.
- After the deadline, law enforcement will commence operations to apprehend and remove those still remaining.
- Punitive actions will be taken against anyone found aiding or hiding these undocumented immigrants.
Deportation Centres and Measures
In the midst of setting up removal centers, Pakistan is grappling with the sizable presence of undocumented immigrants within its boundaries – particularly the 1.7 million Afghans.
- Three removal centers are slated to crop up in the Baluchistan province – one stands out as it’s in the provincial capital, Quetta.
- Also, three more centers are gearing up to pop up in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Migrants captured after the November 1 deadline will be held in these centres, receiving food and medical care until their deportations.
- Upon departure, migrants are allowed to carry a maximum of 50,000 Pakistani rupees (approximately $180).
- The U.N. expressed concerns about potential human rights violations and family separations resulting from this crackdown.
Reactions and Implications
Many Afghan immigrants have resided in Pakistan for decades, with the numbers swelling particularly after the Soviet invasion of 1979-1989 and the recent Taliban takeover in August 2021. Pakistan has been clear that its main focus is on individuals living in the country without proper documentation, irrespective of nationality. However, the 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees have been assured they will not be impacted by this initiative.
Significant points to note:
- Over 60,000 Afghans have voluntarily returned home since the crackdown was announced. Protests have erupted in the southwest Pakistani border town of Chaman over new visa requirements replacing special permits.
- These protesters include both Pakistanis and Afghans who have been accustomed to crossing the border daily for various activities.
- The Taliban has initiated measures to assist repatriated Afghans, providing temporary accommodations, healthcare, and other services.
- Former U.S. diplomats, alongside resettlement organizations, have implored Pakistan to reconsider deporting Afghans awaiting U.S. visas under specific refugee programs.
International Perspective and Concerns
The international community, including various U.N. agencies, has been closely monitoring the unfolding situation in Pakistan. The aggressive stance against undocumented migrants, particularly Afghans, has raised concerns regarding potential human rights violations, the welfare of those deported, and the geopolitical implications in the region.
Several key points have emerged:
- The United States, alongside other Western nations, has expressed reservations about the potential for injustices stemming from the expulsions. They bring to light the tough situation of Afghans waiting for U.S. visas under special schemes meant to shield those facing great danger under Taliban control.
- Humanitarian groups and NGOs have expressed worries about the sudden deportations and the missing detailed plan to guarantee migrants’ safe and respectable return.
- The possibility of families being split up is a pressing issue, with lots of people afraid of its long-lasting harmful effect on families, especially kids.
Historical Context and Ongoing Tensions
The longstanding presence of Afghan immigrants in Pakistan has been a significant point of contention in relations between the two neighboring South Asian countries. With numerous Afghans migrating to escape wars and conflicts, Pakistan has, over the years, hosted millions. Recent border clashes have exacerbated tensions between the two nations.
- Pakistan claims that militants use Afghan territories for training and plotting attacks against Pakistan. Afghanistan, however, refutes these claims, emphasizing that Pakistan’s security concerns are its internal matters.
- While many Afghans are registered with the Pakistani government and U.N. agencies as refugees, the recent move to evict undocumented immigrants signifies a dip in the relationship between the two countries.
Finally, we’re quickly approaching the November 1 deadline, and it’s still uncertain how things will turn out. The question is what will this mean for Afghanistan and Pakistan’s close relationship? People all over the world can’t tear their eyes away, holding out hope that there will be a solution that respects the simple fact that everyone deserves rights – no matter where they come from or what their backstory is. We mustn’t forget to protect the needs and safety of those who are most at risk – the migrants.