Pakistan To Expel Over A Million Illegal Migrants After November 1. Here's Why

Pakistan denied targeting Afghan nationals and said that the focus is only on people who are in the country illegally, regardless of their nationality.

Pakistan To Expel Over A Million Illegal Migrants After November 1. Here's Why

Pakistan is home to over 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees.

Pakistan has asked all undocumented immigrants, including an estimated 1.7 million Afghans, to voluntarily leave the country by November 1 or face deportations. Pakistan is determined to remove all illegal immigrants from the country, said Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Tuesday amid claims by Islamabad that 14 of 24 suicide bombings in the country this year were carried out by Afghan nationals. According to the minister, there will be no deadline extension. He also stated that action would be taken against anyone involved in helping or hiding the immigrants. 

"All the illegal immigrants have been identified. The state has complete data," said Mr Bugti, as per DW. "I want to appeal one more time that all the illegal immigrants should leave voluntarily by the deadline," he added. 

Who Are These "Illegal Immigrants"?

Notably, according to Reuters, Pakistan is home to over 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees. Out of these, about 1.7 million are undocumented. Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants - many came after the Taliban retook Afghanistan in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion, the news agency reported. 

Now, as cash-strapped Pakistan is navigating record inflation and a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program, the officials in the country have accused the undocumented migrants of draining the resources for decades. Islamabad has also claimed that the many bombings in the country this year were carried out by Afghan nationals. 

"There are no two opinions that we are attacked from within Afghanistan and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us," Mr Bugti said in a news conference. "We have evidence," he added. "If they do not go, ... then all the law enforcement agencies in the provinces or federal government will be utilised to deport them," Mr Bugti said.

According to officials, illegal immigrants who are willing to voluntarily leave the country will be helped by the nation. But authorities also warned that anyone found in the country illegally after Wednesday would be arrested. 

Pakistan also stated that the 1.4 million Afghans who are registered refugees need not worry. It denied targeting Afghan nationals and said that the focus is only on people who are in the country illegally, regardless of their nationality. 

Deportation centres 

According to DW, three deportation centres have been set up in southwestern Baluchistan. Another three centres have also been set in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. More than 60,000 Afghans have returned home since the crackdown was announced, Azam Khan, the caretaker chief minister for the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said. 

Pakistan's crackdown condemned 

A number of diplomats and representatives have condemned Pakistan's crackdown on immigrants. Afghanistan has called Pakistan's move "harassment". The Afghan embassy in Islamabad in a statement on X, said more than 1,000 Afghans have been detained in the past two weeks - half of them despite having a legal right to be in Pakistan. "Despite the repeated promises of the Pakistan authorities, the arrest and harassment of Afghan refugees by the police in Pakistan continues," it said.

Separately, a group of former US diplomats and representatives of resettlement organisations also urged Pakistan not to deport Afghans awaiting US visas under a program that resettled vulnerable refugees fleeing Taliban rule. 

According to DW, the United Nations also made a similar appeal, saying that the crackdown could lead to human rights violations, including the separation of families. 

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