PESHAWAR/QUETTA: As border managers buckle under the influx of Afghan refugees being sent back to Afghanistan, the federal government on Thursday eased one condition to facilitate the undocumented immigrants, particularly women and children, who are now exempted from data entry at the Nadra counters set up at the border crossings.
So far, 148,267 Afghan immigrants have left for Afghanistan during voluntary repatriation. On Thursday, a total of 19,344 undocumented immigrants left via Torkham.
The decision was taken a day after the officials feared the situation could go out of control after the influx at the Torkham border overwhelmed the border management facilities and the authorities struggled to process the deportation of immigrants.
“The interior ministry issued directions that female and children below the age of 14 will not be scanned for entry by Nadra. Only male adults would be scanned during the voluntary repatriation,” a senior official told Dawn.
The official added the federal government ordered to maintain only a ‘head count’ of Afghan women and children going to Afghanistan.
With the fresh directions exempting women and children, the border management authorities overcame the situation ending the backlog, officials said.
They added that even the number of illegal immigrants at the border was slightly lower on the second day of the expiry of the deadline for voluntary repatriation as compared to Wednesday.
Apart from Torkham, officials at the border crossing in Angoor Adda in KP’s South Waziristan district said that 294 Afghan immigrants, including 129 children, voluntarily left for Afghanistan on Thursday.
In Quetta, the police took at least 572 refugees into custody and shifted them to the holding centres.
However, 200 were sent back after they produced valid documents, caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai told Dawn on Thursday.
About 384 people who did not have valid documents were sent to Chaman for deportation, he said, adding that a portal had been established in which immigrants could register their complaints in case of any issues.
According to the deputy commissioner of Quetta, Saad bin Asad, at least 1,176 Afghan people volunteered a day earlier to reach the Chaman border on their own.
Afghan refugees minister
Authorities on the Afghan side of the border have been overwhelmed by the scale of the exodus as they attempt to process those returning — some of whom are setting foot in Afghanistan for the first time in their lives.
“We are constantly in contact with them [Pakistani authorities] asking for more time. People must be allowed to return with dignity,” the Taliban government’s refugees minister Khalil Haqqani told AFP in Torkham. “They should not give Afghans a hard time, they should not make more enemies,” he said at a temporary processing centre, which opened overnight Wednesday.
Taliban authorities set up the centre several kilometres from a border crossing, as well as camps for families with nowhere to go, after a bottleneck there sparked an “emergency situation” for thousands of stranded people, an official said.
Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2023