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  • World - Asia
  • Updated: November 01, 2023

Mass Exodus Of Afghan Refugees As Pakistan Enforces Deadline For Departure

Mass Exodus Of Afghan Refugees As Pakistan Enforces Deadline

Afghan refugees climb a truck as they prepare to depart for Afghanistan, at a holding center in Landi Kotal, Pakistan, Nov. 1, 2023. (AFP Photo)

In an unfolding humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands of Afghans living in Pakistan faced detention and deportation on Wednesday, as a government deadline for them to leave sparked a mass exodus.

At least 29,000 people crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan the day before the deadline.

The Interior Ministry of Pakistan has initiated a process of arresting and deporting illegal foreigners starting from November 1.

However, authorities are also encouraging the voluntary return of those who are living in Pakistan without proper documentation. Since the issuance of the order by an unelected caretaker government, over 140,000 people have left Pakistan since the beginning of October.

This move has been enforced as Pakistan prepares for elections scheduled for January.

To process and deport Afghans, Pakistan has established forty-nine holding centers across the country.

This development has left many Afghan refugees with a heart-wrenching choice, as they prepare to return to Afghanistan, a country still grappling with instability and uncertainty.

For many, returning to Afghanistan comes with immense challenges, such as the lack of land, housing, and employment opportunities.

“My heart doesn't really want to return to Afghanistan but I have no other choice," said 32-year-old Irfanullah, as he waited to be deported.

"The police were harassing me ... they used to disrespect all the men and women by entering our houses, that's why we are returning, to avoid further humiliation."

35-year-old Benafsha, four months pregnant with her seventh child, was waiting to be processed before moving on to her province of origin, Kunduz, with her family.

"In Kunduz, we don't have land, or a home, or work. We don't have anything there," said the woman, who was never documented in Pakistan despite living there almost all her life.

The move has also sparked concerns about human rights violations. Human Rights Watch has raised alarms over Afghans awaiting resettlement to countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada after fleeing the Taliban government. These individuals are at risk of deportation once their Pakistani visas expire.

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