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Pakistan issues last warning to hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghans to leave

Afghan refugees waiting for their turn to cross into Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Torkham, Pakistan, on October 19, 2023.

Pakistan has issued a last warning to all undocumented immigrants including a large number of Afghan nationals, to leave the country voluntarily before the end of this month.

In a statement issued by Pakistan’s caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Thursday, Pakistan was determined to go ahead with a plan to remove all undocumented immigrants after November 1.

"All the illegal immigrants have been identified. The state has complete data," Bugti said at a news conference in Islamabad.

"I want to appeal one more time that all the illegal immigrants should leave voluntarily by the deadline."

Early this month Pakistan ordered all undocumented immigrants, mainly about 1.73 million Afghan nationals, to voluntarily leave the country or face deportation.

The interior minister said that the law enforcement agencies will start an operation to forcefully remove people after the deadline ends.

Bugti also warned of action to be taken against anyone found involved in facilitating or hiding illegal immigrants.

The immigrants, mostly Afghans, many of whom have lived in Pakistan for years, will be processed at temporary centers being set up by the government.

Those leaving the country voluntarily will be helped in their smooth exit through the preparation of the documents, permission to exchange currency and transportation, the interior ministry said.

Pakistan announced the move to remove all undocumented immigrants on October 3rd saying that the decision was taken after Afghan nationals were found to be involved in crimes, smuggling and attacks against the government and the army, including 14 out of 24 suicide bombings this year.

“There are no two opinions that we are attacked from within Afghanistan and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us. We have evidence.” Bugti had said early October.

In response, the interim Afghan government led by the Taliban had regarded Pakistan’s announcement as “unacceptable”.

According to Pakistan’s interior ministry, there are nearly 1.73 million illegal Afghan nationals in the country.

About 1.3 million Afghans are registered refugees and 880,000 more have legal status to remain, according to the latest United Nations figures.

With the hurried withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power in August 2021, a new wave of approximately 600,000 to 800,000 Afghan immigrants crossed over to neighboring Pakistan.   

As per the UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a record 28.3 million people currently depend on humanitarian and protection assistance in Afghanistan, up from 24.4 million in 2022 and 18.4 million in 2021.

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