Posted on November 1, 2023

Hundreds of Thousands of Afghan Migrants Face Deportation From Pakistan in Widespread Crackdown

Mushtaq Yusufzai and Jennifer Jett, NBC, November 1, 2023

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghan migrants are facing deportation from Pakistan to the Taliban-ruled country that some of them have never even visited.

In a surprise announcement last month, the Pakistani government said it would arrest and deport an estimated 1.7 million unregistered or undocumented foreigners starting Nov. 1. Though Pakistan says the crackdown is not aimed at any particular nationality, most of the foreigners living there are from neighboring Afghanistan.

The United Nations’ human rights office said the move could give rise to a “human rights catastrophe,” as families could be separated and some of those sent back face possible arrest and torture in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials have accused Afghan nationals of being involved in militant attacks, smuggling and other crimes, which the Afghan government denies.

“Regardless of whether they are playing a good or bad role in society, our system has no way of identifying these individuals,” interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said in Lahore on Monday.

On Wednesday, dozens of Afghans were already being rounded up and deported after the expiration of an Oct. 31 deadline to leave.

“Today, we said goodbye to 64 Afghan nationals as they began their journey back home,” interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti wrote in a post on X, accompanied by video footage. “This action is a testament to Pakistan’s determination to repatriate any individuals residing in the country without proper documentation.”

Fearing arrest, 140,000 Afghans have left the country in recent weeks, according to the Pakistani Interior Ministry. On Tuesday, thousands of vehicles loaded with household goods were moving slowly toward the border in Peshawar, a city in northwest Pakistan.

Many Afghans thought they would never go back and are worried about what will happen when they do.


Pakistan says the 1.4 million Afghans registered as refugees will not be affected. {snip}


Afghanistan, which has called Pakistan’s plan “unacceptable” and asked for the deadline to be extended, has set up a high commission to assist forcibly returned Afghan refugees with temporary accommodations and other services.


More than 100 former U.S. leaders, diplomats and others also objected to the planned deportations of Afghans, thousands of whom fled Taliban rule and have been waiting for more than two years in Pakistan for U.S. visas.


There are more than 2 million undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan, according to the U.N., at least 600,000 of whom arrived after the Taliban regained power in August 2021 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. Others fled while Afghanistan was occupied by the then-Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989 or after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


Undocumented migrants in Pakistan are being deported as Afghanistan faces widespread hunger that is likely to get worse as winter approaches. The country is also still dealing with the aftermath of a series of earthquakes in October in the province of Herat, in which women and children made up more than 90% of deaths.

Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which share a border of about 1,600 miles, have increased in the past two years over a surge in attacks on Pakistani security forces by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of harboring Islamist militants from the group, which is separate from the Afghan Taliban but has a similar ideology.