QUETTA / LAHORE / PESHAWAR: As the government-ordained deadline for the deportation of illegal immigrants — mostly Afghans — draws near, authorities have intensified their efforts by setting up ‘holding centres’, and opening additional border crossing points to speed up the repatriation process.

To expedite the repatriation of undocumented foreigners to Afgha­nistan and Iran, the Balochistan government is opening three more crossing points.

“These crossing points are being opened in Qila Saifullah, Qameruddin Karez and Baracha Noor Wahab in Chagai district to help Afghan and Iranian Baloch immigrants to meet the deadline of Oct 31,” said Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai at a press conference on Friday.

Similarly, foreigners found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa without proper documents would be repatriated from KP crossing points, he added. After the deadline, he asserted, the government would implement its plan with full force, involving all relevant institutions in expelling illegal foreigners from across the province.

Punjab government identifies 33,000 illegal foreign residents; sites picked for temporary ‘holding centres’ in KP, Punjab and Balochistan

He said that the data of all voluntarily repatriated illegal immigrants would be updated and saved. He said illegal immigrants coming from Sindh and Punjab would receive full security and be kept in holding centres.

The Quetta Haji camp has been converted into a holding centre, and additional centres have been established in border towns of Chaman and Pishin. More such centres may be set up in other areas if needed.

The illegal immigrants will be provided with food and necessary facilities, he added Replying to a question, the information minister said that around 40,000 to 50,000 people from Chaman and Spin Buldak were crossing the Pak-Afghan border daily without passports and visas.

The government would no longer permit this practice, as it is not in the country’s interest and is not in line with international border practices.

He noted that non-registered immigrants were returning to their home countries, with over 16,000 Afghans have already returned along with their families via the Chaman border.

Mr Achakzai said that the government was not only repatriating illegal Afghan refugees but also intended to send Iranian Baloch, Nigerians, Bosnians, Bangladeshis, Indians, and other foreigners living illegally in Pakistan back to their home countries.

Action would be taken against those who rent out their houses and shops to illegal immigrants, and illegal properties of foreigners would be confiscated, he added.

33,000 ‘illegal immigrants’ in Punjab

 Punjab’s caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir addresses a press conference in Lahore on Friday. — Screengrab
Punjab’s caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir addresses a press conference in Lahore on Friday. — Screengrab

In the ongoing mapping of illegal immigrants, the Punjab government has identified 33,000 illegal foreign residents, mostly Afghan nationals, in the province, caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said on Friday.

The provincial government says it is keeping the illegal immigrants at 36 ‘holding points’ in the province, and maintains that undocumented immigrants will be deported if they do not leave the country voluntarily by Oct 31.

According to Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, all preparations have been made to launch a “comprehensive crackdown” on undocumented immigrants and those giving them shelter.

Mr Mir said that some 99,000 illegal immigrants had been identified across the country, some of whom were being held in designated holding within Punjab, he added.

He also justified the deportation of illegal Afghan nationals, saying that they were involved in recent terror attacks. “There were 24 suicide bombings in different parts of Pakistan and Afghan nationals were identified as suicide bombers in 14 such incidents,” he claimed.

KP identifies holding sites

Meanwhile, officials in KP said that the home and tribal affairs department had finalised the sites for keeping illegal immigrants, near Hamza Baba’s mausoleum in Landi Kotal, district Khyber, and Labour Col­ony near Defence Housing Authority on the outskirts of the provincial capital.

They also stated that apart from the facilities in districts Peshawar and Khyber, illegal immigrants in Azad Kashmir and Hazara division would be shifted to a facility set up in Haripur district.

They stated that although there was no shelter at the moment, it was expected in next few days. PDMA is responsible for camp management.

An official document from the KP home department stated that a control room was established to coordinate, monitor, and report the repatriation plan of illegal foreigners.

It said representatives from the police, corps headquarters, Peshawar, Nadra, FIA, Passports and Immigration, commissionerate of Afghan Refugees and PDMA and federal and provincial intelligence agencies would be present in the control room, which would become operational from today (Saturday).

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2023

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