Pakistan exempts Afghan refugees awaiting resettlement to US from deportation - GulfToday

Pakistan exempts Afghan refugees awaiting resettlement to US from deportation


Afghan refugees walk towards the Torkham border on Sunday, following Pakistan's government decision to expel people illegally staying in the country. AFP

Tariq Butt / Agencies

The government has ordered authorities not to arrest Afghans who are waiting to be relocated to the United States, as it wages a crackdown on illegal migration.

The caretaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has exempted the illegal immigrants, Afghans, scheduled to resettle in Western countries from the ongoing crackdown on undocumented migrants for their deportation to their country.

More than 180,000 people have returned to Afghanistan since Islamabad ordered 1.7 million Afghans it says are living illegally in Pakistan to leave or face deportation, border officials have said.

Human Rights Watch has previously warned that Afghans awaiting resettlement to the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Canada after fleeing the Taliban government are at risk of deportation after their Pakistan visas expired.

Afghanrefugees-AFP-Chaman Afghan refugees arrive on a vehicle loaded with their belongings to cross the Chaman border crossing. AFP

Several Western nations are still in the process of resettling Afghan refugees two years on from the Taliban takeover, forcing many families to wait in limbo for months in Pakistan.

"As per the Embassy of America, 1,150 Afghan nationals are being sponsored for relocation and resettlement to (the) United States," said the letter from the Interior Ministry, dated Nov.2 and seen by AFP. "It is requested that it may be ensured that the Afghan nationals who are mentioned in the subject list, are not arrested till further notice." It comes after the United States on Wednesday called on Islamabad to let through Afghans who are seeking asylum.

"We strongly encourage Afghanistan's neighbours including Pakistan to allow entry for Afghans seeking international protection and to coordinate with international humanitarian organisations to provide humanitarian assistance," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Wednesday.

The KP home department said in a letter that a list of illegal foreigners destined for third countries was received from the federal Ministry of Interior and individuals destined for third countries would not be subject to arrest.

Afghan-refugees-truck Trucks transporting Afghan refugees with their belongings are seen along a road towards the Torkham border crossing. AFP

The decision comes days after the deadline for voluntary repatriation expired on Nov.1. "Several illegal foreigners entered Pakistan, but they plan to leave for Europe, the United States and different other Western countries. We have shared a list of these people with police, divisional commissioners and all the officials concerned,” a senior official said, adding that the home department exempted them from arrest.

Officials said that over 1.5 million Afghan nationals entered Pakistan after August 2021, when the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul, adding that over half of those Afghans got themselves registered with the UN High Commission for Refugees for resettlement in Europe, the US and other countries. Although the deadline for voluntary repatriation has expired, it is still underway.

A total of 167,861 Afghan immigrants have left for Afghanistan since Sept.17 via KP. The number of illegal immigrants at the border crossing dropped sharply, officials said, adding that apart from voluntary repatriation, prisoners involved in petty crimes were being transported from KP, Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the Torkham border crossing.

"There is a huge difference in the number of illegal immigrants showing up at the border crossing on Nov.30 and what I see today,” a senior official said, adding that the illegal immigrants were still leaving for Afghanistan, but the number had dropped sharply.

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