Uncertainty Awaits Afghans As Pakistan Cracks Down On Unregistered Foreigners
In a crackdown on unregistered foreigners, part of the new anti-immigrant policy, Pakistan has begun detaining and deporting Afghan refugees who missed a Wednesday deadline for them to leave. The measures put some 2 million Afghans in the country at risk.
According to Sarfraz Bugti, the acting interior minister of Pakistan, at least 200,000 people have already returned to Afghanistan voluntarily. “There will be no compromise against illegal refugees. We have the data on who are staying illegally in Pakistan.”
“We Are Refugees In Both Countries”
Bugti attacked the West for not putting in enough efforts to help relocate Afghans at risk from Taliban retaliation if they return. Nonetheless, the crackdown has drawn widespread criticism from UN agencies, rights groups as well as from the Taliban administration in Afghanistan.
Refugee holding camps have been established for the thousands of Afghans waiting to cross the border. In the border town of Chaman, more than 1,000 refugees are staying in temporary shelters, with boarding, lodging, food, medical and municipal services reported to be provided.
Although the number of Afghans entering Pakistan increased dramatically after the Taliban takeover in 2021, a number of others have been living and working in Pakistan for years. “We are refugees in both countries,” said Mir Agha, 23, who was born and raised in Pakistan.
What About Minorities, Journalists, Women?
Particular concerns have been raised over forced deportations of minorities, journalists and women, who are at risk under the Taliban regime. Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the foreign ministry spokeswoman of Pakistan, said these groups would not be forced to return.
Thousands of Afghans who worked for the US, Britain and other countries in the West before the takeover are stranded in Pakistan. The Taliban administration has urged its neighbour to give undocumented Afghans in the country more time.