Pakistan is initiating a widespread deportation effort targeting “undocumented immigrants,” as announced by authorities on Tuesday. With over 1.7 million individuals seeking refuge from the violence in neighboring Afghanistan, the caretaker Interior Minister, Sarfraz Bugti, declared a deadline of November 1 for those residing in Pakistan without legal status to depart. Bugti emphasized that after this date, “all law enforcement agencies would be responsible for their deportation.”
As of the conclusion of 2022, Pakistan had provided refuge to over 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees, along with 427,000 individuals in circumstances resembling refugees, as reported by the United Nations’ refugee agency. Nevertheless, the presence of these individuals has long been a contentious issue, marked by police crackdowns and prior deportation threats. Volunteer organizations have reported hundreds of Afghan deportations from Pakistan this year, based on local records.
During the recent press conference, Bugti asserted that Afghan nationals had executed 14 out of the 24 major terrorist attacks that had occurred in Pakistan in the current year. He stated, “There are attacks on us from Afghanistan, and Afghan nationals are involved in those attacks. We have evidence to support this claim.”
Bugti also disclosed that in the crackdown, the businesses and assets of “undocumented aliens” would be seized, and legal action would be taken against illegal business operators and their accomplices.
Pakistan is home to one of the world’s largest refugee populations, primarily consisting of Afghan refugees. The interconnected destinies of the two nations, owing to their shared border and deep cultural connections, have historically resulted in years of conflict and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan affecting Pakistan.
Many Afghans initially fled their country during the Soviet invasion in 1979, finding shelter in Pakistan during one of the world’s most significant refugee crises at that time. Another wave of Afghan refugees arrived in 2021 following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, with thousands crossing into Pakistan, often lacking proper documentation while awaiting visas to third countries like the United States.
Amnesty International, a nonprofit organization, expressed concerns about the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, emphasizing that “Many Afghans living in fear of persecution by the Taliban have fled to Pakistan, where they have been subjected to waves of arbitrary detentions, arrests, and the threat of deportation.” The organization also noted the inadequate international attention given to this issue.