Immigrants allowed to resettle abroad exempted from arrest

Published November 5, 2023
AFGHAN refugees arrive on a vehicle loaded with their belongings to cross the Chaman border crossing, on Saturday.—AFP
AFGHAN refugees arrive on a vehicle loaded with their belongings to cross the Chaman border crossing, on Saturday.—AFP

• Over 7,000 more voluntarily return to Afghanistan via Torkham, Angoor Adda
• 168,000 immigrants have left via KP since mid-Sept

PESHAWAR: The caretaker Khyber Pakhtun­khwa government has exem­pted the illegal immigrants scheduled to resettle in Western countries from the ongoing crackdown on undocumented migrants.

The KP home department said in a letter that a list of illegal foreigners destined for third countries was received from the federal Ministry of Interior and individuals destined for third countries would not be subject to arrest.

The decision comes days after the deadline for voluntary repatriation expired on Nov 1.

“Several illegal foreigners entered Pakistan, but they plan to leave for Europe, the United States and different other Western countries. We have shared a list of these people with police, divisional commissioners and all the officials concerned,” a senior official told Dawn, adding that the home department exem­p­ted them from arrest.

Officials said that over 1.5 million Afghan nationals entered Pakis­tan after August 2021, when the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul, adding that over half of those Afghans got themselves registered with UNHCR for resettlement in Europe, the US and other countries.

Although the deadline for voluntary repatriation expired on Nov 30, the voluntary repatriation is still underway.

On Saturday, a total of 7,135 illegal Afghan immigrants, including 3,040 children, voluntarily left Pakistan for their home country via the Torkham border crossing, official data showed. Another 87, including 42 kids, left through the Angoor Adda border crossing in South Waziristan district.

A total of 167,861 Afghan immigrants have left for Afghanistan since Sept 17 via KP.

The number of illegal immigrants at the border crossing dropped sharply, officials said, adding that apart from voluntary repatriation, prisoners invo­lved in petty crimes were being transported from KP, Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the Torkham border crossing.

“There is a huge difference in the number of illegal immigrants showing up at the border crossing on Nov 30 and what I see today (Saturday),” a senior FIA official said, adding that the illegal immigrants were still leaving for Afghanistan, but the number had dropped sharply.

He said that 215 prisoners, including 194 from 11 districts of Punjab and 21 from Peshawar, were also transported to Torkham and later repatriated to Afghanistan.

Despite the expiry of the deadline for illegal immigrants, Afghan families were no longer kept at the transit camp established for the returning families and they were immediately sent to the border crossing once they reached Landi Kotal from other parts of the country.

Some of the returning Afghans, who interacted with local media persons, said that they were also not interested in staying in Pakistan any more, as they had faced a lot of humiliation from police and other law enforcement agencies.

They said that most of the returning families had to sell away their personal belongings at throwaway prices before returning to Afghanistan, as they were either not able to take along all their personal items or they wanted to secure some cash for their return journey to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Balochistan Home Minister Zubair Ahmed Jamali on Saturday said the ongoing repatriation of undocumented Afghan refugees was done only via the Chaman crossing, while two more holding centres had been set up in different areas.

“We are sending undocumented immigrants to Chaman reaching Quetta from Karachi, Sindh and Punjab,” he told reporters, adding that over 50,000 had already returned to Afghanistan.

He said the Balochistan government had established a holding centre at Dera Allahyar, a town at the Sindh-Balochistan border, for immigrants coming from Karachi, other Sindh areas and south Punjab.

Mr Jamali also highlighted the ongoing scrutiny of fake identification documents, with over 144,000 already blocked by Nadra.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2023

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