More than 165,000 Afghans flee Pakistan after deportation order - GulfToday

More than 165,000 Afghans flee Pakistan after deportation order


Afghan refugee boys carrying hens arrive to cross the Torkham border on Thursday. AFP

Torkham: More than 165,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan in the month since its government ordered 1.7 million people to leave or face arrest and deportation, officials said on Thursday.

The majority rushed to the border in the past several days as the Nov.1 deadline approached and police began to open up dozens of holding centres to detain arrested Afghans.

Authorities on the Afghan side of the border have been overwhelmed by the scale of the exodus as they attempt to process those returning — some of whom are setting foot in Afghanistan for the first time in their lives.

AfghanrefugeesNov2 Afghan refugees arriving from Pakistan walk at the Torkham border. AFP

 "We are constantly in contact with them (Pakistani authorities) asking for more time. People must be allowed to return with dignity," the Taliban government's Refugees Minister Khalil Haqqani told reporters.

Taliban authorities set up the centre several kilometres from a border crossing, as well as camps for families with nowhere to go, after a bottleneck there sparked an "emergency situation" for thousands of stranded people, an official said.

At the largest border crossing at Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, officials worked into the early hours of Thursday to clear a queue of 28,000 people that stretched for seven kilometres.

Just over 129,000 have fled from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial home department said, while a total of 38,100 have crossed through Chaman in Balochistan province, border officials there said.

Afghans-mohajar Afghan nationals with their belongings gather as they head back to Afghanistan at the Torkham border crossing. AFP

As pressure at the borders eased, officials vowed to keep up their immigration crackdown, detaining hundreds of Afghans, while encouraging undocumented families to continue leaving voluntarily.

More than 100 people were detained in one police operation in the mega city of Karachi on Thursday, while police rounded up 425 Afghans in Quetta, the city closest to the Chaman border crossing.

"I have the card but this morning police raided our home and told us they would verify our IDs. We would rather leave than endure police raids at our homes," Hameed Khan, a 30-year potter born at a refugee camp in Peshawar, said at a police station in Karachi, where he had settled.

After the country's interior minister met the Afghan ambassador in Islamabad on Thursday, Pakistan announced that women and children under the age of 14 leaving voluntarily would be spared body searches and biometric scanning at the border, in line with cultural sensitivities.

"The constitution of Pakistan gives every person who is present on this soil the right to a fair trial, but these refugees have been denied that right," said Moniza Kakar, a Karachi-based human rights lawyer.


Agence France-Presse



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