Source: INcontext International, November 1, 2023
On October 3, the government of Pakistan announced that all “illegal immigrants” must leave the country by November 1 or face forced deportation. The announcement has been criticized by foreign governments and international rights organizations for its alleged targeting of the approximately 1.7 million Afghans living in the country as refugees and displaced persons.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced that those who voluntarily turn themselves in will receive “incentives and help” with their relocation. However, those who do not leave voluntarily will face arrest, detention, and deportation with no assistance. Those leaving are allowed to take up to 50,000 Pakistani rupees (US$173) out of the country.
Bugti emphasized that there will be no deadline extensions, and any Afghan person found without proper documentation will be handed over to Afghan authorities. He also warned that businesses and property owned by Afghans are also at risk of seizure. However, the decision is said to not affect those who are officially registered as refugees in Pakistan or those with proper paperwork to be in the country.
Wondering how things are going now that the deadline has passed? See a photo essay about the returnees, “Just Sitting in the Dirt”: Afghans Forced From Pakistan Struggle to Find Shelter (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). Many are also returning to Afghanistan from Iran and facing similar conditions. The UN estimates that over 29 million Afghans—out of a population of around 40 million—need humanitarian assistance. Globally, the number of displaced people continues to break records.