Deadline inches closer for Afghan refugees

Repatriation speeds up, illegal foreign nationals cross the border in droves

​ Our Correspondents October 30, 2023
Afghan refugees arrive in trucks to cross the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Torkham. Photo: AFP


With only two days remaining until the October 31 deadline, thousands of Afghans are hastening their return to their home country as part of the accelerated repatriation process.

Tuesday marks the final day for illegal foreign nationals to leave the country, and official sources have confirmed that the government will stick to its plan, deciding against extending the deadline for voluntary repatriation.

This applies to all illegal foreign nationals, including Afghan refugees, who are expected to return to their respective countries.

In order to ensure compliance, law enforcement agencies have completed the geo-fencing and geo-mapping of illegal residents.

Once the deadline has passed, action will be taken against those found to be residing in the country illegally, including the confiscation of all their movable and immovable assets.

Read 'Concerned citizens' urge NCHR to prevent violation of Afghan refugees' rights

Over 86,000 undocumented Afghan nationals have so far returned to their country while one-hundred and forty-nine families returned to Afghanistan in one-hundred and seventy-four trucks during the last twenty-four hours.

A total of 33,555 illegal immigrants have returned to their home country through the Torkham border between October 1-23. Among these were 2,772 Afghan families, comprising 8,309 men, 5,457 women, and 19,789 children.

The return of Afghan nationals began after the government had instructed all unregistered immigrants to voluntarily repatriate by October 31, 2023, prompting the initiation of this repatriation process through the Torkham border.

It is pertinent to note that the government later clarified that the campaign was not aimed at a particular nationality.
UN agencies said on Friday there were more than 2 million undocumented Afghans in Pakistan, at least 600,000 of whom fled after the Taliban takeover in 2021.

Earlier, a senior government official, while requesting anonymity, had told The Express Tribune that Pakistan will not show any flexibility in its decision seeking the deportation of all foreigners living in the country illegally despite pressure being exerted by certain countries to review the move.

“We are sticking to our decision. There will not be any flexibility. All foreigners living in the country illegally will have to adhere to the October 31 deadline,” he said.

Afghan refugee truck accident

Two people lost their lives while 26 others sustained serious injuries after a 10-wheeler truck, transporting Afghan refugees, overturned due to over-speeding.

Read more Pindi to arrest 24,000 undocumented Afghans

The incident, which took place in the vicinity of Hattian, occurred when the truck carrying families of Afghan refugees veered off the road and crashed into a bridge, causing it to topple over.

As a result, men, women, and children who were sitting on top of the truck were trapped under the debris.

However, after a lengthy struggle to extract the victims from the twisted metal, the injured were immediately transferred to Hazro Civil Hospital, Attock, and Rawalpindi, sources said.

Hazro Assistant Commissioner Kamran Ashraf also arrived at the Hazro Civil Hospital and issued instructions to provide the injured with necessary medical treatment, food, and other essential services.


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