- One camp each in Islamabad and Rawalpindi; two established in Attock
- Source says action against registered refugee on the cards as well
ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI/TAXILA: As the deadline for the ‘voluntary repatriation’ of Afghan refugees ends today, the government on Tuesday established ‘holding centres’ in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Attock to house the undocumented immigrants before deporting them to their home country.
In Rawalpindi, Khyaban-i-Sir Syed’s Government Shehbaz Sharif Associate College will act as a ‘holding centre’, whereas in Islamabad, a similar facility has been established in I-14 sector. In Attock, two camps have been set up at Government College of Technology Attock and Degree College Hazro.
Islamabad police officials told Dawn that separate teams had been constituted to detain undocumented immigrants, who would be shifted to respective police stations before they were moved to camps.
Upon reaching these camps, an officer at the ‘holding camp’ will issue a receipt carrying the details of the detained immigrants, police officials said, adding that the detained individuals would be asked to produce identity documents, which would be verified through Nadra before their release. In case, documents turn out to be forged, they would be sent to camps.
“The arresting team will also confiscate the belongings of the illegal immigrants at the time of the arrest,” the sources said, claiming that the record of the confiscated belongings would also be maintained at the police station.
According to officials, the officer concerned at the ‘holding camp’ would maintain the record of the transfer of the ‘illegal immigrants’ from the camp to the border. The police teams would also provide security cover to the FIA team from the camp to the selective destination at the border of Islamabad.
“The FIA team will transport the illegal immigrants to the Pak-Afghan border,” the officials said, adding that their mobile phones would also be confiscated during deportation.
“The illegal immigrants will be transported to the Pak-Afghan border on Wednesday and Thursday from the camp,” the sources said, adding that the resting point of the caravan would be decided by the in-charge of the FIA team in consultations with the police team’s supervisor providing security cover.
According to officials, Pakistan welcomed refugees on humanitarian grounds since the country is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 1951. “Action will also be taken against immigrants who have registration cards, but a policy in this regard is awaited,” the sources said.
“Even refugees having proper registration…cannot buy property, besides, they should also stay in the official refugee camps,” they added.
The capital police also set up a control room at Safe City Islamabad to “monitor the arrest of the illegal immigrants”. The capital police also started making announcements through mosque loudspeakers, asking the ‘illegal immigrants’ to leave for their native country.
“Over their failure to leave, the police warned of legal action,” the officials added.
Meanwhile, the Capital Development Authority also conducted an operation in Sector I-12 and demolished over 800 houses of the ‘illegal immigrants’.
Talking to Dawn, Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner Dr Hassan Waqar Cheema said the caretaker Punjab government had directed for such centres in all tehsils, but later it decided to make “centralised centre” where illegal foreigners will briefly stay before the deportation.
“In Rawalpindi district, there are 55,000 Afghan nationals while 12,000 Afghan nationals are identified as ‘illegal foreigners’. About 4,000 Afghan nationals have no legal documents while some have expired visas…they will be shifted to camp and then deported to the Afghan border,” he said.
“Once we get clearance from the KP government, these ‘illegal foreigners’ will be brought to the Torkham border,” Dr Cheema said, adding that the centre had the capacity to accommodate more than 500 people.
“We established a Nadra centre at the camp as well to verify foreigners’ data through a biometric system before they are sent to their home country… this data will be saved for future references as well,” he said.
He said five counters had been established at the Nadra centre to avoid inconvenience, adding that the local police and administration had finalised the list of foreigners to bring them to the centre for further checking of documentation.
Mr Cheema said the local police and the district administration took into custody 93 Afghan nationals on Tuesday from different parts of the district and added that 15 of them had no legal documents.
He said the holding centre had been functional but the arrival of ‘illegal aliens’ would start on November 1.
In Attock, Rawalpindi Regional Police Officer Syed Khurram Ali along with Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha visited these temporary camps on Tuesday.
Deputy Commissioner Rao Atif Raza along with SP Investigation Javeria Mohammad Jamil separately briefed them about the lodging and security arrangements at these camps.
The officials said that the third meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee said 10,000 illegal foreign nationals were identified in Attock district. The officials were told that arrangements had been made to accommodate more than 400 Afghan refugees with 200 rooms in the Government College of Technology.
— Additional reporting by Amjad Iqbal in Taxila
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2023