Pakistan Plans to Deport All Illegal Immigrants

That includes 1.7M Afghans
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 6, 2023 2:20 PM CDT
Pakistan Says It Is Deporting 1.7M Afghans
Afghan families wait to board into a bus to depart for their homeland, in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, Oct. 6, 2023.   (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Pakistan will carry out its recently announced plans to deport all illegal immigrants, including 1.7 million Afghans, in a "phased and orderly manner," the foreign ministry said Friday. The statement is likely meant to assuage international concerns and calm fears among Afghan refugees in Pakistan after Islamabad unexpectedly said Tuesday that all migrants—including the Afghans—without valid documentation will have to go back to their countries voluntarily before Oct. 31 to avoid mass arrests and forced deportation. This sent a wave of panic among those living in the country without papers and drew widespread condemnation from rights groups, the AP reports.

Activists say any forced deportation of Afghans will put them at a grave risk. Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesperson for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Friday the new policy is not aimed at Afghans only. "We have been hosting Afghan refugees generously for the past four decades," when millions of them fled Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation, she said. Those 1.4 million Afghan nationals who are registered as refugees in Pakistan need not worry, she added. "Our policy is only about illegal individuals who are here illegally, no matter what their nationality is," she added

"The laws in Pakistan are similar to laws in many other countries," Baloch said. Officials said Tuesday that starting in November, rewards would be offered to people who shared the whereabouts of illegal immigrants, the Washington Post reports. Amnesty International asked Pakistan to allow the Afghans to continue to live in the country, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' spokesman expressed concerns about the new policy, saying, "As a matter of principle it is critical that no refugees be sent back without it being a voluntary and dignified return."

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Although Pakistani security forces and police have routinely been arresting and deporting Afghans who have sneaked into the country without valid documents in recent years, this is the first time that the government has announced plans for such a major crackdown. (More Pakistan stories.)

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