KABUL: More than 500,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan in the four months since Islamabad ordered undocumented migrants to leave or face arrest, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Monday.

According to the latest figures reported by the UN migration agency, 500,200 Afghans left between Sept 15, 2023 and Jan 13, 2024.

“Since the initial peak around November 1, the number of individuals crossing these official border points has consistently decreased but remains higher than pre-September 15th,” an IOM statement said.

“Some Afghans forced to return may be at risk of persecution, arrest and detention and/or torture or ill-treatment,” the UN’s Afghan mission said in a report on Monday.

Meanwhile, the busiest border crossing between the two countries remained closed for the tenth day running in a dispute over document rules for commercial drivers.

The row centres on demands for drivers from both sides to have visas and passports — documents many Afghans do not have — as Pakistan cracks down on cross-border movements.

More than 400 trucks were stranded on the Pakistan side of the Torkham crossing on Monday, according to a border official who asked not to be named.

Millions of Afghans fleeing conflict have poured into Pakistan over the past four decades, including some 600,000 since the Taliban ousted the US-backed government.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2024

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