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Pakistan Launches Nationwide Crackdown on Afghan Nationals, Sparking Concerns and Criticism

The UNHCR has issued slips to those seeking assistance, although these slips are not officially recognized by Pakistani authorities.

Pakistan has initiated a nationwide crackdown on foreign nationals, primarily targeting Afghans residing in the country without proper documentation. Thousands of Afghans in Pakistan have returned to Afghanistan in recent months, prompted by fears of deportation, but many who have lived in Pakistan for decades argue that they have no viable options in Afghanistan, particularly under the current Taliban government. 

The Pakistani government has stated that its policy aims to address illegal immigration and only affects individuals without proper documentation. However, critics argue that bureaucratic delays and the absence of recognized identity documents have left many new arrivals without legal status.

Amnesty International and other human rights organisations have condemned Pakistan’s deportation policy, especially concerning vulnerable groups such as women and girls, who face significant risks upon their return to Afghanistan. The UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) has expressed concerns about potential dangers faced by specific groups, including minorities, journalists, and women. The organisation has issued slips to those seeking assistance, although these slips are not officially recognized by Pakistani authorities.

Despite criticism, Pakistan’s government has moved forward with its deportation plans. Pakistan’s interior minister announced the establishment of centres across the country to process detainees before deportation, with special consideration for the elderly, children, and women. The Pakistani government has emphasised its sovereign right to enforce its laws and pointed to its history of hosting millions of Afghan refugees over the past four decades.

The Taliban government in Afghanistan has urged Pakistan to reconsider its deportation efforts, expressing dissatisfaction with the move. The Afghan Ministry of Refugees plans to register returnees and accommodate them in temporary camps, while the Taliban administration aims to assist them in finding employment. However, concerns persist regarding the economic impact of thousands of deportees on Afghanistan’s fragile economy, which has already been severely affected by recent events, including the Taliban takeover and natural disasters.

Additionally, there is widespread fear among those facing deportation, especially individuals who had worked for international forces. Despite the Taliban’s announced amnesty, reports of targeted violence against former government officials and armed forces members have raised concerns about the safety of returnees. Many Afghans in Pakistan are living in uncertainty, worried about their future and the prospects for their families, especially in the absence of legal documents and educational opportunities for their children.

As the deportation process continues, aid agencies and observers remain vigilant about the humanitarian consequences, particularly in light of Afghanistan’s challenging economic situation, ongoing humanitarian needs, and the approaching winter season, which poses additional challenges for vulnerable populations.

Kiki Garba.

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