Pakistan Extends 1.45 Million Afghan Refugees’ Right To Remain By 1 Year

Pakistan Extends 1.45 Million Afghan Refugees' Right To Remain By 1 Year

An estimated 600,000 arrived since the Taliban government seized power in August 2021. (File)


Some 1.45 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan will be allowed to stay for another year, Islamabad said Wednesday, but it insisted evictions of undocumented migrants would continue.

More than 600,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan since Islamabad last year ordered undocumented migrants to leave or face arrest as relations with Kabul soured over security.

Human rights monitors warned those sent to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan were given little support and some faced persecution by Kabul’s new rulers.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet said it approved an extension until June 2025 for the 1.45 million Afghan refugees legally residing in the country who hold Proof of Registration cards.

The cards expired at the end of last month, leaving holders without legal certainty about their right to remain in Pakistan.

Not all Afghan citizens in Pakistan have such cards and even those who do hold them have reported being harassed and intimidated to leave the country.

Islamabad’s announcement came the day after a three-day visit by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi.

In a statement on Tuesday, the UNHCR said Grandi “expressed appreciation that the ‘Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan’ had been suspended”.

However a foreign office spokeswoman said “this is not true”.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told reporters in a statement: “No such understanding has been given by Pakistan to the UNHCR” and the scheme “remains in place and is being implemented in an orderly and phased manner”.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani immigration official at the Torkham border crossing said they had begun seizing documents, including refugee registration cards, from departing Afghans.

“We are implementing this directive following instructions from the Ministry of Interior,” said the official at the busiest crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“This measure aims to ensure they do not return to Pakistan and instead depart permanently, though they may re-enter after obtaining a visa,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Millions of Afghans have poured into Pakistan over the years, fleeing decades of cascading conflict.

An estimated 600,000 arrived since the Taliban government seized power in August 2021 and imposed its stark interpretation of Islamic law.

Islamabad has previously said its massive eviction scheme is justified by security concerns and its faltering economy.

Analysts say it is pressuring Kabul over rising attacks in Pakistan’s border regions with Afghanistan, where the Taliban government is accused of giving militants safe haven.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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