Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan are being forced to return to their home country after Islamabad launched a crackdown against “illegal migrants.”
According to Pakistani officials, around 10,000 people crossed the borders on Wednesday and thousands more were waiting at checkpoints on Thursday.
“Some 35,000 people have already left the country and up to 10,000 people will cross the Chaman border every day,” Jan Achakzai, information minister in the southwestern Balochistan province, told Anadolu Agency, referring to a border point between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He claimed undocumented Afghans were leaving the country voluntarily.
Videos posted on social media showed a large numbers of Afghan refugees along with children and women waiting at the Torkham and Chaman border crossings for identity verification before leaving.
Pakistan’s caretaker government had announced last month to deport all undocumented foreigners after October 31.
The UN, human rights organisations and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan had urged Pakistan to reverse its decision. But Islamabad said the government had no plan to extend the deadline and all foreigners would be deported regardless of their nationality.
Pakistan has been hosting a large number of Afghan refugees since the 1979 Soviet invasion of its northern neighbour.
According to the UN human rights office, more than two million undocumented Afghans are living in Pakistan, including at least 600,000 who left Afghanistan after the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan said it set up temporary camps to move the refugees to their home towns.
“We have completed all preparations to facilitate our brothers and sisters who are coming back, established tent villages, hospitals and also arranged transport to take them to their home towns,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson of the Taliban, told Anadolu.
According to him, the IEA is providing them food and other facilities as well.
The deportations come amid increasing tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan alleges that some Afghan refugees have been involved in “funding and facilitating” terrorist activities in the country. Out of the 24 suicide bombings on security installations and civilian targets in Pakistan this year, 14 involved suicide bombers who were Afghan nationals, according to Pakistani authorities.
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has rejected allegations that Afghans are involved in terror activities in Pakistan.