Pakistan detained over 1,000 Afghan migrants: Afghan embassy

Afghan people walk inside a fenced corridor as they enter Pakistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border-crossing point in Chaman on August 25, 2021. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani police have detained more than a thousand Afghan migrants in the last two weeks, according to the Afghan embassy in Islamabad.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the embassy alleged that despite repeated promises from Pakistani authorities, the “arrest, harassment, and mistreatment” of Afghan refugees and migrants by Pakistani police continues.

The embassy added that it had informed Pakistani authorities about this issue.

According to the embassy’s statement, Pakistani police are conducting raids on Afghan migrants’ homes day and night. It also added that nearly 500 of the detained refugees have migration and travel documents. Most of the Afghan migrants, according to the Taliban embassy, have been detained on the outskirts of Islamabad.

The embassy added that the detention of Afghan migrants, especially in Sindh province, particularly in Karachi, continues, and many Afghans, including women and children, are imprisoned.

It called on the Pakistani government to put an end to the harassment and mistreatment of Afghan refugees to avoid negative repercussions on Afghanistan-Pakistan relations.

Meanwhile, hours after the caretaker government’s decision to deport over 1 million “illegal immigrants” after the November 1 deadline, the United Nations (UN) said that refugees residing in Pakistan should be allowed to exit the country voluntarily and no pressure should be exerted on them.

“Any refugee return must be voluntary and without any pressure to ensure protection for those seeking safety,” Qaisar Khan Afridi, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Turkish news outlet Anadolu.

The interim government earlier in the day ordered all illegal immigrants, including 1.73 million Afghan nationals, to leave the country or face expulsion after revealing that 14 of 24 suicide bombings in the country this year were carried out by Afghan nationals.

“We have given them a November 1 deadline,” said Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti, adding that all illegal immigrants should leave voluntarily or face forcible expulsion after that date.

Bugti said some 1.73 million Afghan nationals in Pakistan had no legal documents to stay, adding a total of 4.4 million Afghan refugees were living in Pakistan.

The UNHCR official termed the press reports about a plan to deport undocumented Afghans “disconcerting” and said the body was seeking clarity from “our government partners”.

Afridi asked Pakistan to come up with a plan that ensures all Afghan nationals with international protection are not deported, noting that Islamabad has been “generously hosting refugees for more than 40 years”.

“We must also keep in mind that those fleeing persecution often do not have the necessary documents and travel permissions,” he added.

Afridi further said that the UNHCR is ready to support Pakistan in developing a mechanism to manage and register people in need of international protection on its territory and respond to “particular vulnerabilities.”

“Pakistan has remained a generous refugee host for decades. This role has been acknowledged globally but more needs to be done to match its generosity,” he added.

Islamabad has received the largest influx of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Kabul in 1979.

Pakistan has also maintained militants — including those of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — use Afghan soil to train fighters and plan attacks inside Pakistan.

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