Afghans face mass deportation from Pakistan

Published: June 29, 2012
Pakistan is home to 1.7 million refugees and hundreds of thousands more unregistered migrants from its neighbour. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Pakistan is home to 1.7 million refugees and hundreds of thousands more unregistered migrants from its neighbour. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

KABUL: Hundreds of thousands of Afghans face the threat of deportation back to their war-torn country from Pakistan once a deadline expires Saturday, but Kabul is crying foul over the move.

Pakistan is home to 1.7 million refugees and hundreds of thousands more unregistered migrants from its neighbour, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

But Islamabad says it cannot be expected to tolerate illegal migrants, and 400,000 undocumented Afghans in Pakistan’s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the bulk of the Afghan community live, face the imminent prospect of removal.

The UNHCR describes the situation of Afghans in Pakistan as the “largest and most protracted refugee crisis in the world” and warned that the question of how to deal with it was becoming “increasingly politicised”.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s information minister, said law enforcement agencies have been told to compile lists of illegal Afghans and once the June 30 deadline passes, orders will be issued for their arrest, appearance in court and subsequent deportation to Afghanistan.

“No country allows illegal immigrants, how it is possible to legalise something which is illegal?” Hussain said.

“We have been accommodating Afghan immigrants for 32 years. The provincial government cannot take their burden any more. They should go back to their country.”

But Afghans are nervous about welcoming home so many jobless, impoverished people to a country where returnees have in the past struggled to find work and roofs over their heads.

The government in Kabul denied the expulsions would take place.

Afghan refugee ministry spokesman Islamuddin Jurat conceded there was a “small problem” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but said the two sides had agreed to solve the issue and give the Afghans “some legal status to stay there”.

The Afghan-Pakistani border is notoriously porous and even if the deportations were to go into effect there would be little to stop returnees going back to Pakistan.

Pakistan, where the economy is also depressed, says it cannot be expected to tolerate illegal migrants.

Hussain claimed that illegal Afghans were involved in crime, although experts have dismissed such accusations as an excuse to rid the country of the immigrants.

At the heart of the problem is deep distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Each country blames the other for Islamist violence, with both sides accusing the other of sheltering Taliban insurgents on either side of the border.

Pakistan has already carried out some deportations, albeit on a much smaller scale. Between December 2010 and February 2011, some 1,400 Afghan families were sent home from Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

It said Afghan and Pakistani officials had agreed to offer “safe and dignified repatriation” to 7,200 families, or around 50,000 people, from Pakistan, if funding can be found.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in Kabul this month for a conference on Afghanistan’s future, stressed that Pakistan favoured voluntary returns of refugees.

“At the Chicago summit, we heard how the situation is improving in Afghanistan. If that is the case, then voluntary return should be natural,” said Khar.

But the prospects for Afghans returning home are grim. Apart from the 10-year Taliban insurgency, they face trying to support themselves in a weak economy that is likely to suffer further when NATO forces leave by the end of 2014.

“Afghanistan doesn’t have the capacity to absorb so many people. It doesn’t have the resources in terms of schools, clinics and especially jobs,” said IOM spokeswoman Aanchal Khuranaa.

Since the US-led invasion in 2001, around 5.7 million Afghan refugees have returned to their home country, many living in destitution.

Afghanistan remains the world’s biggest producer of refugees, the UNHCR said last week, putting their number at 2.7 million.

“The gradual return of an estimated 2.4 million undocumented Afghans from Iran and Pakistan will pose serious challenges,” said IOM Afghanistan country director Marco Boasso.

The UNHCR’s strategy for Afghan refugees in 2002 was the biggest mistake the organisation ever made, Peter Nicolaus, the body’s head in Afghanistan admitted in December.

He said the international community had failed to help returnees find a means of earning a living and therefore reintegrating into society.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (32)

  • xoya
    Jun 29, 2012 - 2:42PM

    Yes please deport them & cut all ties with Afghanistan .
    This is the only way our country will be free from these talibans & please also send JI to afghanistan fazool ur rehman can start his speeches & demonstrations there .


  • SK
    Jun 29, 2012 - 2:49PM

    its way past time that this generosity of Pakistanis comes to an end and all these Afghans who have helped destroyed Pakistani society for the last 30+ years should go back to their country


  • Sana Khan
    Jun 29, 2012 - 2:50PM

    About Time. Afghanistan have far better economic condition for last decade than Pakistan, Americans and Afghan govt should take care of the Afghans, provide food and shelter. We do not want illegal immigrants anymore.


  • The Patriot
    Jun 29, 2012 - 3:05PM

    Great News.

    The ungrateful Afghan government needs to take care of it’s citizen.
    Pakistan and the Pakistani people have already given sacrifices in this war on terror


  • Rana
    Jun 29, 2012 - 3:26PM

    Pakistan has been hosting Afghans for more than 3 decades on brotherly hood grounds, for which we have paid a lot, resulting beheading of our army personals and bomb blasts etc. It’s time to get our soil rid of them. India would be happy to host them, as preferences and priorities of them against Pakistan have great similarities these days.


  • ConfusedCitizen
    Jun 29, 2012 - 3:27PM

    About time.


  • swapnil
    Jun 29, 2012 - 3:45PM

    To all pakistanis
    please don’t leave them now.You have gave them shelter for long time don’t ruin all your efforts just by releasing them into afghanistan now. Some of them might join terrorism there and it will have devastating effect on your border areas ultimately on pakistan. beter thignto do would be make them self sustainable and release them when there is stability in afghanistan.


  • maria
    Jun 29, 2012 - 3:46PM

    First comes Pakistan and first comes her security. It is better for the safety of Pakistan and the immigrants to go back to Afghanistan because US, India and Jews are using them to attack on Pakistan so as to destablize it. They are used as suicide bombers and target killers which in turn kills innocent Pakistanis.


  • Saeed Zada
    Jun 29, 2012 - 4:18PM

    Afghan refugees must go back otherwise we should be prepared for worst result subsquently. Price hike pollutin and over crowded streets in Peshawar are our future.


  • Mawali
    Jun 29, 2012 - 4:30PM

    About time!


  • Ali Wali
    Jun 29, 2012 - 4:56PM

    What about those who possess fake IDs?


  • Syed
    Jun 29, 2012 - 5:13PM

    400,000 undocumented Afghans in Pakistan’s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the bulk of the Afghan community live

    There are around same number of afghanis and tajiks living in Karachi illegaly who is going to deport them ??


  • mkz
    Jun 29, 2012 - 5:23PM

    What kind of problems is this going to solve??? The problem with Pakistan is not the Afghani refugees. Our corrupt leaders should show some compassion. We can never know when we might be turned into refugees as well. This move has the potential to destroy Af-Pak relations and force more into insurgency. Bad bad move


  • Hedgefunder
    Jun 29, 2012 - 6:25PM

    Firstly stop blaming others for Pakistan’s problems. as majority of them have been self created, due to flawed policies and games that the rulers of this land have decided to play over past 60 odd years !
    Try deporting the Afghans ! Have you actually got any Border????
    They will return the next day ! Pakistan simply does not have any Border with Afghanistan. nor does it have resources or infrastructure to maintain one !
    Its time to grow up and act bit more responsible, instead of behaving like some JuvernilesRecommend

  • Usman
    Jun 29, 2012 - 7:13PM

    Bad move. A lot of Afghans now consider themselves Pakistanis and deporting them would alienate them from their Pakistani identity. Short sighted moves like these will create more problems for Pakistan than solve them.

    If the corrupt Afghan govt. is favouring India over Pakistan for their business deals, then these poor refugees shouldn’t pay the price for it. Lets sort out our country and include these refugess as part of the solution, not the problem.


  • Abdullah Khan
    Jun 29, 2012 - 7:20PM

    Afghan refugees were supposed to leave in 2006, we extended their stay 2 time for period of 3 and 3 years.

    Now they should leave and go back to their country.

    Pakistan is feeding, sheltering and protecting them for for 40 years. we even allowed them free movement in Pakistan unlike Iran where they were not allowed to leave camps.

    Iran send all of them back.

    Afghans destroyed Pakistan’s peace loving society, now they should be forced to leave.


  • alicia
    Jun 29, 2012 - 7:21PM

    What’s the point. They will probably return back next month through a hidden passage way in the rugged terrains of the Pak-Afg border.

    We need to have a proper border between the two countries which at the moment is non-existent. Yes I get that the tribes on both sides have relations and like to see each other but an entire country cannot be hostage for the whims of a few people. Taliban come and kill Pakistanis every second day because of the fluid border, our flour, sugar and what not is smuggled daily. We are suffering too much.


  • Jim Jones
    Jun 29, 2012 - 8:03PM

    Pakistan does not pay a single cent for these refugees. The UN does.

    The reason why there are so many Afghan refugees in Pakistan is because the Pakistani government supported the insurgency against the communists. Had they not done that, there would be no refugees in Pakistan. Very simple.Recommend

  • Masood
    Jun 29, 2012 - 8:07PM

    The point is to realize the world that the cost of Pakistan paying for decades. Its not enough for last 3 decades that they had been sheltering in Pakistan. We as Pakistani need to focus on our priorities in Baluchistan, people fundamental rights etc rather support such a big mass of people. Lets speak straight they should go back and apply for visa in the way all Pakistani need visa for other countries. Now Afghanistan is no more that poor state they have world richest investors. There are billions of investments from India, USA and Europe so they will get jobs. NADRA should device efficient mechanism to figure out fake identities as well.


  • Masood
    Jun 29, 2012 - 8:11PM

    @Jim Jones:
    Its a joke. :) Jim ideally you are right but practically people have short memories they forgot soon and as they forget they no bother about funding. Just go to internet and see the cry of the UN refuge people for last 30 years


  • Pakistani
    Jun 29, 2012 - 8:36PM

    Time to go home, hope u enjoyed ur stay…….


  • Naseer Qureshi
    Jun 29, 2012 - 8:41PM

    The biggest problem is how to identify who is Afghani and who is not. Over one third of Pakistanis do not even possess ID cards and have no way of proving Pakistani citizenship specially women and children. Pakistan does not have resources to identify, arrest, incarcerate and deport almost 3.5 million Afghanis, Tajiks, chechens, chinese, uegurs, uzbeks, iranis, Indians, bangladeshis, somalis, arabs and God only knows who else to their respective countries. In addition, border is dangerously porous so much that both governments have never worked out the mechanism to identify ground positions and it is impossible to man the long, mountainous, terrorist infested, rebellious border completely. On top of everything else, people on both sides of the border need open border as infrastructure is not developed enough to confine trade and travel within the borders. For example, people of Chitral and Dir are completely cut off from the rest of the country (pakistan) because of heavy snow in the winter. they must have to enter afghanistan and reenter pakistan to travel to peshawer for trade, medical facilities, food etc. Similarly, people on afghan side of the border need open border to sell their produce and buy stuff. Today people enter and exit both country frequently without any visas or any hinderance on foot or by any means of transportation.


  • ather khan
    Jun 29, 2012 - 9:19PM

    its about time. afghans are giving bad name to pahktuns of pakistan. they are behind all terrorism and drug crimes. but people see them as pathans and give a bad name to all pahktuns. we pahktuns of kpk are also tired of them. so please deport them. they will be far better in their home. refuge life make people criminal minded. i hope the situation will improve once they are deported.


  • RS
    Jun 29, 2012 - 9:25PM

    Afganistan is their home, now nato is there to protect them n their government with enough money to take care of them.


  • Big Rizvi
    Jun 29, 2012 - 10:04PM

    Afghans, Afghans go away, come again some other day!~


  • afgun
    Jun 29, 2012 - 10:41PM

    Some dude saying pakistan is feeding afghans for the past 40 years!! makes me laugh lol i can add a few more to this. pakistan is giving them unemployment benefits, tax relief, free housing, free education, free health etc etc.
    don’t forget guys that pakistan has received billions during the afghan soviet war and later US-Taliban war. But when the pakistani government and army chooses to use these funds to make nukes instead of creating welfare for its citizen this its citizen should divert their grudge towards its politicians and army and don’t try to blame economically self-sufficient refugees.Recommend

  • vigilant
    Jun 29, 2012 - 11:43PM

    It’s time to send back all afghans registered, unregistered or with fake IDs…..for 32years we supported them what we got?? drugs, weapons, contraband products, blame game from afghanistan, every terror act traced back to our country…’s best time to send them as afghanistan has better economy, stability and peace than Pakistan. They will be happy their.

    I will request to government for construction of wall at complete border with Afghanistan and for fund raising new tax can be introduced. i hope most citizens with agree to pay to get rid of problems.

    @Jim Jones:
    wow amazing facts dude… increased my knowledge of history…….


  • Hedgefunder
    Jun 30, 2012 - 12:34AM

    I don’t get it ! What happened to this Land of Pure and Muslim brotherhood?
    Why this stigma and BS, why not acknowledge the fact, that there is selective Islam in Pakistan, let’s leave the minorities out of this too !!!!!!


  • Swati
    Jun 30, 2012 - 1:12AM

    Good. In my opinion, even the registered ones should be sent back. I am a Pashtun and I say “please do not listen to them if they use the ‘Islam or ‘Pashtun’ card.” Enough is enough! They claim to be Pakistanis and get all the benefits but they never love Pakistan.


  • Proud Pashtun
    Jun 30, 2012 - 1:32AM

    Shame on Pakistan for showing back to its UMMAH brothers. India is secular yet has opened its doors to Afghan refugees(Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims). India has historically opened its doors to immigrants like Parsis from Iran and so many Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims and Nepalses Hindus also. Pakistan must learn from India.


  • Jun 30, 2012 - 2:10AM

    The afghan refugees in Pakistan should be absorbed by countries that are concerned with the well being of Afghans and profess Afghan-philia.

    Afghans by and large hate the Pakistani people and would be better off in India and the countries the constitute NATO.

    India and the countries the constitute NATO should accept them with open arms.

    Sign the petition here:


  • Hedgefunder
    Jun 30, 2012 - 2:43AM

    Has anyone paid TAXES in Pakistan ? Ones that matter?
    Then start dreaming of such Walls !!


More in World