Pakistan Sets Ultimatum for “Illegal Immigrants” to Vacate the Country
The Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan
By Global News Service
On October 4, Pakistan’s caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti ordered “illegal immigrants” to vacate the country by the end of that month. The move has invoked widespread fear among the approximately 1.7 million Afghans living in the country.
Bugti said that law enforcement agencies would be used to deport illegal immigrants who do not leave by November 1. After the deadline, their properties and businesses will also be confiscated.
The UN opposed the deadline, with a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees saying that return must be “voluntary and without any pressure.”
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid asked the Pakistani authorities to reconsider this “unacceptable” policy.
“Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problem. As long as [Afghans] leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them,” he wrote.
Fear of persecution at the hands of the Taliban and years of bloody conflict forced millions of Afghans to take refuge in neighboring Pakistan. According to the UN, about 1.3 million Afghans are registered as refugees in Pakistan while some 880,000 have the legal status to remain in the country.
Afghan refugees in Pakistan have complained of waves of arbitrary detentions, harassment, and forcible deportations. From 2022 through 2023, at least 150,000 have returned to Afghanistan via the Torkham crossing.
Afghan officials in Pakistan claimed that the authorities have already begun rounding up so-called illegal refugees. The Afghan embassy stated that over 1,000 individuals have been detained since late September.