Govt deports 77 registered Afghan nationals from Torkham

Published October 27, 2023
Afghans gather at a tea shop in the refugee camp in Karachi on October 26. — AFP
Afghans gather at a tea shop in the refugee camp in Karachi on October 26. — AFP

PESHAWAR: The federal government has deported 77 ‘legitimate’ Afghan refugees, according to sources at Torkham border crossing.

Sources said that the Afghan refugees, arrested from different parts of Punjab province, were deported to Afghanistan through Torkham border crossing on Thursday morning despite the fact that they were residing legally in Pakistan and carrying Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.

They said that a total of 93 persons were arrested by police in Punjab, however, 16 of them later turned out to be Pakistani nationals. They added that the Pakistani nationals were released and the 77 Afghan refugees were deported.

“They were all shifted to Torkham on Wednesday night but they could not be deported since the gates were closed. Afghan authorities were requested to open the gates but the request was turned down and the gate remained closed,” sources told Dawn. They added that some of the officials argued with Federal Investigation Agency personnel for deporting registered Afghan nationals.’

16 of 93 persons arrested by Punjab police turned out to be Pakistanis

When asked if the 77 documented Afghan nationals were involved in any criminal activity and were being deported upon court order, sources said there was nothing against the legally residing Afghan refugees.

On the other hand, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received several complaints from documented Afghan refugees against police for allegedly harassing them.

“Yes, we have received complaints from different parts of the country and we have taken up the issue with the relevant authorities,” UNHCR country spokesperson Qaisar Afridi told Dawn when asked about the allegations. He added that UNHCR was assured by the government that no action would be taken against PoR card holders.

He stated UNHCR was gravely concerned over reports about detention and arrest of ‘documented’ Afghan nationals. “UNHCR urges authorities to release the arrested Afghan nationals as soon as possible,” said Mr Afridi. He added that recommendations for extension of PoR cards were submitted by Ministry of Safron to federal cabinet and UNHCR hoped that the government would approve the extension.

Police in the provincial capital, however, rejected the allegations. They said that there were clear orders to police not to harass anyone and follow the government directions.

“This is rubbish. A traditional psyche,” said Capital City Police Officer Syed Ashfaq Anwar about the allegations. He said that not even a single case was filed by anyone for having been harassed by police.

“October 31 is the deadline and the department will follow directions issued by the government,” he told Dawn. He added that any complaint filed by anyone allegedly harassed by police would be pursued since nobody was allowed to harass or detain anybody.

According to official documents, the country has more than 0.7 million illegal Afghan refugees and over 0.3 million of them live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The registered Afghan refugees in the country reached 1.503 million in March 2023.

The documents show that about 0.345 million Afghan refugees live in 43 camps across the province. More than 0.69 million Afghan refugees have Afghan Citizen Cards while over one million possess PoR cards.

Officials of Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees said that over 1.5 million Afghan nationals entered Pakistan after August 2021 when Afghan Taliban took over Kabul. They said that almost half of those Afghans got themselves registered with UNHCR for resettlement in Europe, the United States and other countries while the rest stayed undocumented.

Official documents show that KP houses around 0.7 million registered Afghan refugees including 0.35 million in urban areas and 0.345 million in camps.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2023

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