Pakistan To Start Expelling 1.7 Million Afghan Refugees From Tomorrow

Pakistan Interim Interior Sarfraz Bugti has mentioned that 20,000 illegal foreigners have already left the country over the past three days and they will start an operation to expel the rest as the deadline ends on October 31.

Pakistan earlier this month said it will arrest and deport undocumented or unregistered foreigners after Oct. 31, including 1.7 million Afghans.

As the deadline approached for all undocumented immigrants, including 1.7 million Afghan nationals, to leave Pakistan, interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Monday stated that the caretaker government would initiate the phased expulsion of these individuals if they did not depart voluntarily.

Pakistan declared October 31 as the date for the expulsion of illegal immigrants.

"After November 1, the state will begin its operation to expel aliens in phases,” The Express Tribune newspaper quoted Bugti as saying.

Bugti confirmed that over 20,000 illegal foreigners had voluntarily left Pakistan over the last three days. He mentioned that all provincial governments would actively participate in the operation against illegal foreigners. “Committees have been formed on divisional and district levels,” he added.

The interim interior minister clarified that the expulsion of illegal foreign nationals would occur in phases, with those lacking travel documents being deported in the initial phase.

The illegal immigrants, many of whom have resided in Pakistan for years, will be processed at temporary centers set up by the government.

“The government has completed the geo-mapping and will locate illegal foreign nationals wherever they are,” he said, adding that they had established holding centers to accommodate illegal foreigners after the deadline.

“All basic facilities will be provided at these centers to illegal foreign nationals,” he assured in response to a question about their safety.

Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees for the past four decades, with millions of them fleeing Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation.

The October 31 deadline for illegal immigrants, particularly Afghans, received widespread criticism.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the Pakistani government to “suspend forcible returns of Afghan nationals before it is too late to avoid a human rights catastrophe.”

Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch on Monday stated that the repatriation plan applied to “all illegal foreigners residing in Pakistan, irrespective of their nationality and country of origin.”

“The decision is in the exercise of Pakistan’s sovereign domestic laws and compliant with applicable international norms and principles,” she said in a statement.

Baloch also called on the international community to scale up efforts to address “protracted refugee situations through advancing durable solutions as a matter of priority.”

“Pakistan will continue to work with our international partners to this end,” Baloch said.

Earlier, the Afghan government also criticized Pakistan for the decision and urged it to reconsider.