Pakistan deports more than 6,500 Afghans; total repatriated to Afghanistan touches 1,70,000: Official

According to official data, 6,584 Afghans, including women and children, exited Pakistan on November 5.

November 06, 2023 12:19 pm | Updated 12:19 pm IST - Islamabad

A view of the Afghan refugees at a camp, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Torkham, Afghanistan. File

A view of the Afghan refugees at a camp, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Torkham, Afghanistan. File | Photo Credit: AP

More than 6,500 Afghan nationals left Pakistan through the Torkham border on November 5, taking the total number of repatriated Afghans to more than 1,70,000, border officials said on November 6.

The voluntary evacuation has been going on since the government gave an ultimatum to all unregistered foreign nationals to leave Pakistan by November 1 after which action would be taken against them according to law.

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A total of 1,74,358 Afghan nationals left for Afghanistan since September 17, adding that voluntary repatriation was still under way, but the number was dropping with each passing day, the Dawn newspaper reported, quoting officials.

"There was a huge number of illegal immigrants at the border crossing soon after the deadline expired. It is now coming down,” an official involved in processing voluntary repatriation of Afghan nationals said.

According to official data, 6,584 Afghans, including women and children, exited Pakistan on Sunday.

On Saturday, 209 deportees from different prisons across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab were sent back along with 46,936 men, 35,507 women and 85,331 children.

On November 3, 148 deportees, 44,718 men, 33,699 women and 82,221 children were repatriated, while the number stood at 24 deportees, 40,899 men, 30,399 women and 76,675 on November 2.

Around 7,195 families, with 34,639 men, 25,710 women, and 68,280 children, besides 115 deportees, were repatriated on November 1.

“Apart from the voluntary repatriation, Afghan nationals imprisoned for involvement in petty crimes were also being deported,” the official data said.

More than 500 prisoners from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Islamabad were deported between November 1 and 4.

According to official numbers, 194 prisoners were transported from different districts of Punjab to the Torkham border crossing for repatriation.

On Saturday, around 700 Afghan nationals also returned through the Chaman border, according to caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai.

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Addressing a press conference along with Quetta Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat on Sunday, the Minister said that more than 54,000 Afghans have returned to their homeland.

Officials have also assured Afghan families that the government will bear all expenses for repatriation to convince them.

However, international human rights bodies have criticised Pakistan's move to deport millions of illegal migrants in the country.

They have said that Afghans fleeing Pakistan to avoid arrest and deportation are sleeping in the open, without proper shelter, food, drinking water and toilets once they cross the border to their homeland.

Arshad Malik, country director for Save the Children, said many of those returning are coming back without education documents, making it difficult for them to continue their learning, as well as lacking the local Afghan languages of Dari and Pashto because they studied Urdu and English in Pakistan.

He warned that child labour in Afghanistan as well as their involvement in smuggling are likely to increase due to poverty as most returning families were among the poorest migrants in Pakistan.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Hina Jilani in a letter addressed to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stated that the Pakistan decision to expel Afghans could “trigger a humanitarian crisis”.

“The decision amounts to forced repatriation, which is not recognised under international customary law, and will invariably affect vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, which include women, children, the elderly, persons living with disabilities, persons from low-income groups, and Afghans at risk because of their professions - many of whom fled Afghanistan after the Afghan Taliban took over the government in August 2021,” the letter stated.

Similarly, the National Commission on the Status of Women wrote a letter to Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti, saying that there were approximately 2.5 million widows in Afghanistan, some of whom came to Pakistan in search of livelihood.

“These women are journalists, doctors, software engineers, and others who are undocumented due to various circumstances beyond their control,” it stated.

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