A few months before the parliamentary elections in Pakistan, the authorities are taking tough action. Their plans for mass deportations of refugees have met with sharp criticism. Many Afghans don’t know where to go.
According to government figures, more than 200,000 Afghans have now left the South Asian country in the wake of the threatened mass deportations from Pakistan. The “repatriation process” is going smoothly, said the acting Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti to the German Press Agency on Saturday. The numbers related to the period of the past few weeks since the nuclear power announced that it wanted to deport refugees.
The Pakistani government had announced that it would deport refugees without residence status and gave them a deadline of November 1st to leave the country voluntarily. The measure is primarily aimed at Afghans from the neighboring country ruled by the Taliban, who make up the largest proportion of irregular migrants in Pakistan.
With the plans, the government is raising spirits ahead of the parliamentary elections in the South Asian country scheduled for February. According to government figures, around 4.4 million Afghan refugees live in the country, 1.7 million of them without valid documents.
Traffic jams at the border crossing
Meanwhile, the flow of returnees continues. At the important Torkham border crossing in the northwest of the country alone, around 10,000 Afghans left the country every day. About 1,000 of them would otherwise be affected by deportation, the rest would leave Pakistan voluntarily, said a high-ranking dpa official on Sunday. “We are overwhelmed by the number of people,” the official said. Dozens of vehicles were queued at the border crossing.
The Interior Ministry of the Islamist Taliban ruling Afghanistan reported that around 57,000 Afghans were “forcibly deported” from Friday evening to Saturday morning. The government in Kabul had two tent camps built near Torkham on the Afghan side for the masses. The Ministry of Industry called on business people to donate to the refugees.
Aid organizations are warning of critical conditions for returnees as winter approaches. Many families would have no place in Afghanistan to return to and would probably have to spend the winter in camps in the border region. In addition, Afghanistan is already in a serious humanitarian crisis.
Concern for the safety of journalists
The organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned that around 200 Afghan media workers were also at risk of deportation. Sending the journalists back would endanger their lives, RSF warned. After the Taliban came to power in the summer of 2021, numerous reporters fled abroad and also to Pakistan for fear of repression.
The refugee protection organization Pro Asyl called on the federal government to take in particularly threatened Afghans as promised and to speed up the process. “Many people had to flee to Pakistan for the admission procedures in Germany and other countries,” said Alema Alema, Afghanistan consultant, according to a statement. “The Foreign Office must finally ensure that they get them out quickly.”
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.