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Afghans face mass deportation from Pakistan

Published Jun 29, 2012 09:22am


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An Afghan refugee.—Reuters Photo
An Afghan refugee.—Reuters Photo

KABUL: Hundreds of thousands of Afghans face the threat of deportation back to their war-torn country from Pakistan once a deadline expires Saturday, but Kabul is crying foul over the move.

Pakistan is home to 1.7 million refugees and hundreds of thousands more unregistered migrants from its neighbour, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

But Islamabad says it cannot be expected to tolerate illegal migrants, and 400,000 undocumented Afghans in Pakistan's northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the bulk of the Afghan community live, face the imminent prospect of removal.

The UNHCR describes the situation of Afghans in Pakistan as the “largest and most protracted refugee crisis in the world” and warned that the question of how to deal with it was becoming “increasingly politicised”.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's information minister, said law enforcement agencies have been told to compile lists of illegal Afghans and once the June 30 deadline passes, orders will be issued for their arrest, appearance in court and subsequent deportation to Afghanistan.

“No country allows illegal immigrants, how it is possible to legalise something which is illegal?” Hussain said.

“We have been accommodating Afghan immigrants for 32 years. The provincial government cannot take their burden any more. They should go back to their country.”

But Afghans are nervous about welcoming home so many jobless, impoverished people to a country where returnees have in the past struggled to find work and roofs over their heads.

The government in Kabul denied the expulsions would take place.

Afghan refugee ministry spokesman Islamuddin Jurat conceded there was a “small problem” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but said the two sides had agreed to solve the issue and give the Afghans “some legal status to stay there”.

The Afghan-Pakistani border is notoriously porous and even if the deportations were to go into effect there would be little to stop returnees going back to Pakistan.

Pakistan, where the economy is also depressed, says it cannot be expected to tolerate illegal migrants.

Hussain claimed that illegal Afghans were involved in crime, although experts have dismissed such accusations as an excuse to rid the country of the immigrants.

At the heart of the problem is deep distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Each country blames the other for militancy, with both sides accusing the other of sheltering Taliban insurgents on either side of the border.

Pakistan has already carried out some deportations, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Between December 2010 and February 2011, some 1,400 Afghan families were sent home from Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

It said Afghan and Pakistani officials had agreed to offer “safe and dignified repatriation” to 7,200 families, or around 50,000 people, from Pakistan, if funding can be found.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in Kabul this month for a conference on Afghanistan's future, stressed that Pakistan favoured voluntary returns of refugees.

“At the Chicago summit, we heard how the situation is improving in Afghanistan. If that is the case, then voluntary return should be natural,” said Khar.

But the prospects for Afghans returning home are grim. Apart from the 10-year Taliban insurgency, they face trying to support themselves in a weak economy that is likely to suffer further when Nato forces leave by the end of 2014.

“Afghanistan doesn't have the capacity to absorb so many people. It doesn't have the resources in terms of schools, clinics and especially jobs,” said IOM spokeswoman Aanchal Khuranaa.

Since the US-led invasion in 2001, around 5.7 million Afghan refugees have returned to their home country, many living in destitution.

Afghanistan remains the world's biggest producer of refugees, the UNHCR said last week, putting their number at 2.7 million.

“The gradual return of an estimated 2.4 million undocumented Afghans from Iran and Pakistan will pose serious challenges,” said IOM Afghanistan country director Marco Boasso.

The UNHCR's strategy for Afghan refugees in 2002 was the biggest mistake the organisation ever made, Peter Nicolaus, the body's head in Afghanistan admitted in December.

He said the international community had failed to help returnees find a means of earning a living and therefore reintegrating into society.


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Comments (64) Closed

you Jul 01, 2012 12:55am
i agreed all of you and welcomed all of your comments.
Khizr Jun 29, 2012 11:37am
Send them all to the US. It is a very friendly country.
umar Jul 01, 2012 11:33am
the taliban of the ers was a totally different project than it has become in the last 15 years. This distinction is very important to understand. It is unfair to portray Pakistan and ordinary pakistanis as supporting the brutalitiescarried out by taliban. Back in those days, Taliban was a positive force aimed at conductiing true jihad against the russians, but after the Americans left a power vaccum in AFG, the corrupt factions vied for power .....understand now people???
Chand Buta Jun 29, 2012 09:57pm
Let them live they are hard workers and will improve the economy and pay taxes
nitish Jul 01, 2012 03:44pm
i love her boldness too..................
Imran Siddiqui Jul 01, 2012 07:34am
It is unfortunate that such comments were made. We must continue to work for their honourable return to their country. We must not convey them a message of hostility.
Tahir Razvi Jul 01, 2012 07:32am
Well as a human being I will be sad because there will be lot of them who will suffer but my very experience with an Afghan taxi driver was very unpleasant in 1994 in Dubai, while I took my taxi from my hotel. The guy look very Pastun and in a friendly way I said I am from Pakistan the time he heard Pakistan he was furious your Pakistan is evil and really nasty words, the best part was he was holding a Pakistani citizenship and interestingly he blamed Pakistan for the Soviet Invasion and was praising India. So my advise will be send them all to Inda because they have deep interest in Afghanistan and that way they will win the hearts of Afghans. Come on India show some humanity you are shining give some to poor Afghans too. Normally I don't comment because I don't have a Pakistani citizenship but lets be straight and give these poor people to the right country and think India is the best to take the charge.
shoman Jul 01, 2012 07:48am
i believe afghan are an extra problem in Pakistan and in particular in KP and Balochistan,, as uncontrolled and undocumented refugees they pose a threat to the security and stability of Pakistan. they have been using fake Pakistan ID and Passport and bring a bad image of Pakistan in the rest of the world. moreover after 32 years of our scarifies they still favour our enemy India, they should have been sent many years ago.
ParvezM Jun 30, 2012 01:20am
Send them to India, strategic partners.
Atif Jul 01, 2012 05:49pm
Send these people to india and us, they should welcome them if they are really want to rebuild Afghanistan
Javed S. Jun 30, 2012 01:24am
There will be no mass exodus of Afghan refugees back to home,in fact world will soon see a new wave of Afgan refugees arriving in the Pakistan and else where.
ahmadali86 Jun 30, 2012 04:17am
Good! Pakistan itself has no room for Pakistanis and most of the rights are consumed by others so better they go to Afghanistan and build their country their way.
Ali Jul 01, 2012 12:13pm
Singh ji you forgot that Taliban(extreme religious fighters) were created by US to fight soviets during the war. Bottom line isvUS and Afghan keep saying that things have gotten better in Afghanistan and India is keen on helping it rebuild. So Afghan you should go back to the country where things have gotten so better that NATO is taking about leaving. And India while trying to built Aghanistan should also know how many people they need to help.
Virendra Jun 30, 2012 03:25pm
Well it is a matter between Afghanistan and Pakistan to decide, but since Pakistan was the driving force for US (and NATO) while fighting Soviets in 80s it is a duty of Pakistan now to support them as well. US alone is not responsible for the mess Afghanistan is right now in for this started long before the so called War against terror.
Shehzad Jun 30, 2012 03:28pm
Yes, send them to afghanistan or US or wherever, Pakistan has suffered enormously because of Afghanistan for ages, enough is enough !
Sunil Jun 30, 2012 03:44pm
@Khizr: USA is not the ONLY country to be blamed for Afghanistani; Pakistan was more than happy to unleash so called 'mujhadins' on hapless ordinary Afghani citizens when Soviet were there. More recently, Pakistan was one of the ONLY two countries in whole world to recognize Talibans and their morbid interpretation of Islamic justice in Afghanistan. No??
zain Jun 30, 2012 04:07pm
let India and USA accomodate them we support this idea
Nadeem Jun 30, 2012 11:07am
I love Ms. Khar's boldness and straight talk. If the situation in Afghanistan has improved......why are the refugees still here? The Afghan refugees have been welcomed by Pakistanis in all provinces, but now the time has come for them to go home. Mr.Karzai invite your country men/women back home!
Bilal Jul 01, 2012 05:20am
By being other nationals they can never be helpful to Pakistan's economy at all. Pakistan have more than enough and cheap labor.
@whatfor007 Jul 01, 2012 12:06pm
Afghans Refugees in Pakistan must be send to their great friend & partner India, which is always ready to help the Afghans, I congratulate India who are going to be the host to these Afghans
Hasnain Jun 30, 2012 08:37am
We should let them stay. Most of them have started new lives in Pakistan. It would be cruel to uproot them. We should try our best to help them assimilate instead.
fuad Jul 01, 2012 01:14pm
send them all to USA and EU countries (NATO countries)
Faiz Jun 29, 2012 07:52pm
Send them back or they will go to karachi and make it a new kandahar..
taranveer singh Jul 01, 2012 08:23am
pakistan is responsible for their condition. pakistan supported taliban. pak uae and saudi arabia were only thee countries who recognised taliban govt. in afghanistan. usa and pakistan played dirty game in afghan . i agree pak leader are bad but normal pakistani people should admit it. pak was openly close ally of taliban in war before it was threatned by usa to not to do so
aziahmed63 Jun 30, 2012 09:34am
Absolutely agree with Khizr, Americans should be responsible to accommodate them in their country after all they had to leave because of the Americans.
Iftikhar Husain Jul 01, 2012 11:13am
Thesemrefugees are people likeyou and me they should be helped to go back and settle in their own country.This is the duty of the UNO to see that it is done.
Akil Akhtar Jul 02, 2012 12:03am
They have taken our jobs, they are rude and thankless send them back.
Pkp Jul 02, 2012 12:01am
The article says they have been living here for 32 years. So it was Russians' fault. May be Russians should take them in.
Javed S. Jul 02, 2012 12:11am
These Afghan refugees are common mass of Afghanistan,they are not political parties or war lords,they are men, women,and children,young and old,for God sake be kind to them,UN,ISAF,should help Pakistan accomodate them in shelters,and provide them with food,clothig and medicine.Oil rich middle eastern countries should provide all the funds needed.
salman ahmad Jun 29, 2012 05:40pm
Send them all to US please, they will take care of them. Afghan and US say Pakistan is an enemy, let these friends take care of each other.
zubair Khan Jun 29, 2012 04:43pm
Afgans have every right to stay in KP, because the region is part of the wider Paktunistan involving af-pak.
SAl Jun 30, 2012 09:41pm
Afghans are most welcome in India.
ali Jun 29, 2012 03:51pm
1st we support so many refugees based on muslim brotherhood... that ended up increasing instability in Pakistan due to the influx of so many undocumented criminals.... then get blamed for everything that goes wrong in Afghanistan ... now if we try to send them back we are again been projected as a VILLAIN ... why should Pakistan allow illegal to stay when the rest of the WORLD (THE SO CALLED GOOD GUYS WILL NOT) Pakistan should put strict restrictions on movement b/w borders of any one.... but i guess these are all just wishes ...
ali abbas Jun 29, 2012 03:40pm
How about India? Indians are very eager to help rebuild Afghanistan. This will give India an opportunity to educate these poor Afghanis, teach them the skill of doing business. some IT training perhaps. In return India will get very loyal and thankful friends. Just see how loyal Afghan refuges have turned out for Pakistan! We have been supporting millions of Afghanis and have received so much in return, perhaps not what Pakistanis have sacrificed in term of lawlessness and financial burden but is there a better reward than thanks we have been receiving from our Muslim and brotherly nation of Afghanistan.
haris Jun 29, 2012 03:36pm
Start booking flights and send them to Coalition Countries (US and her Nato allies) will surely receive them with open arms.
Jutt Jul 01, 2012 09:08pm
Where are the Talibans now? Why don't they use their resources rebuild Afghanistan? They claim to be the "Saviour's of Islam" conducting wars on the name of Islam. Why don't they feel for the suffering followers of Islam in whose injured hearts echoes, "Allah Akabar".
Devendra Jun 29, 2012 02:21pm
We have been trying but for you trying to dominate and destroy Afghanistan in the name of strategic depth. Dear Sara, Do you understand the concept?
BRR Jun 29, 2012 02:28pm
Rather unreasonable demand, especially when the Taliban blow up projects, intimidate engineers on the ground, threaten doctors in the field, and halt all development efforts, and the people don't seem to care to support the NATO, US and Indian workers in the field, or care to help themselves.
Saleem Chughtai Jun 29, 2012 02:06pm
The government of Pakistan must stick to its stance and insist on sending Afghans back to their country. The international community should help with their repatriation and resettlement in Afghanistan. The problem is that the Pakistan government is not serious about sending Afghans back because of millions of dollars received in aid and other revenues generated through this crisis. As a sovereign state and to manage its own citizen's welfare, Pakistan must insist on Afghans refurn so that the administration and resources can be adequately spent on Pakistanis. 32 years is a long time for any country to host large number of refugees.
raika45 Jun 29, 2012 01:55pm
Who is responsible for this mess?Some blame the Russians,some the Americans and some Pakistan.A nation Afghanistan became a battlefield for ideology between the super powers .Russia and America.Pakistan was part of it with the training of first the mujaheddin and then the taliban. Till today the nation suffers.Now they say it is the interpretation of Islam as the Taliban are stressing.Your administration was part of the problem. The problem is now put on your shoulders.By the way. who feeds and houses these people.Pakistan or the other NGO and the UNCR?
muhammad Jun 29, 2012 01:17pm
UN should take proper care
Saleh Jun 29, 2012 01:27pm
Those Afghans who have established homes and businesses in Pakistan, and are contributing to the economy, should be allowed to stay.
sara khan Jun 29, 2012 12:44pm
Americans show some decency and rebuild Afghanistan now.
Mustafa Jul 01, 2012 06:06pm
All the data should be verified through NADRA proper planning and check can ensure the correct running of the process and no political motive. Legal procedure is same for everyone and the need of hour is to have close watch and monitoring of all people in neighboring and vulnerable areas
Karamba Jun 30, 2012 01:49pm
India too is very sympathetic and the Afghans have more affection for them as well. I feel both India (opportunistic)and America (destructive) should accomodate the actual refugees - not just the power brokers, warlords and elite. Far too long both have let Pakistan be the scapegoat for all the ills in Afghanistan, let them share this 'blessing'.
jayyy Jun 30, 2012 12:53pm
uncle sam is only talk, heavens fall,hell rises they will never accept afghan refugees, its only a poor and broken nation like ours that has accepted such a huge burden.
Asad Jun 30, 2012 11:58am
We need to deport them as soon as possible and concentrate on our own people. Afghans are the most ungrateful people I've ever seen and met. They live in Pakistan, hate Pakistan and want to damage our country and yet refuse to leave.
Ali Jul 02, 2012 07:21am
Pakistan is not cooperating with UNHCR. In return all Pakistanis living in other countries should repatriate and their dual nationalities must be cancelled.
Pakistani Jul 02, 2012 06:25am
LOL - they pay taxes? LOL your kidding me.
Ali Jul 02, 2012 05:02am
illegal Afghans should send back to their home land so they start building their country and take responsibilites of their nationality.
yousaf zia Jul 02, 2012 04:01am
seriously mr moral. and which country in the vicinity of afghanistan supported the soviet invasion which started this whole mess in the first place.
yousaf zia Jul 02, 2012 03:46am
Mr singh you should not bring political history in this human crisis and dont try to be on moral high grounds afterall In 1979, India was one of the few countries to support the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and then kept on supporting northern alliance which has been as destructive as taliban in creating havoc in afghanistan.
yousaf zia Jul 02, 2012 03:35am
i agree with you hasnain. I am a pakistani too and i dont believe in mass deportation of the whole families who have started their lives and for whom there is nothing in afghanistan. Our government should legalize and document these refugees so that the government and law enforcing agencies can have a check on those people who may involve in some criminal activities. this is the only humane and dignified way.
Afzal Jul 02, 2012 03:21am
Pakistan is not responsible for the Afghan war take them to India
Altaf Hussain Mumbai Jul 02, 2012 02:47am
It beats reasoning as to why Afghans can't stay in AkPak?
Dr. M A Hussain Jul 02, 2012 02:34am
Illegal immigrants go back to their country. No arguments here. Pakistan does not bear the responsibility of hosting them and it is Afghanistan's duty to take care of them by whatever means thay can. It is their problem.
Rizwan Jul 02, 2012 01:36am
Pakistan is not responsible for the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan in 1979. In fact, the Soviets were invited by the Communist government in Kabul. These aren't refugees from the Taliban, they've been here since 1979! Between 1989 and 1996, when there was no Taliban, why didn't they go home? Because they're not refugees from the Taliban, they are just economic migrants.
rizwan Jul 02, 2012 01:34am
Oh Devendra, you buy into that "strategic depth" argument without paying heed to the fact that when Afghanistan has been stable, she has been a constant thorn in Pakistan's side. You seem to be uninformed of Pre-Soviet Invasion AFghanistan and Pakistan relations.
mu_ali Jul 03, 2012 08:01pm
they always liked India more then Pakistan they are pro India in Pakistan we have only mess because of them we have about 2 million refugees which European country has got 2 million refugees,they are making bomb blasts and lot of harm to our society and they dont want to live in peace(for centuries)let them go back home and do what they want but in Afghanistan not in Pakistan
shanz Jun 30, 2012 05:53am
When Afghan governnment distrust Pakistan and there is deep hatred in the hearts of Afghans then they should ask America and India to accmodate these refugees.
bob Jul 31, 2012 01:38am
no they shouldn't
bob Jul 31, 2012 01:41am
Pakistan has been for the last 30+years
bob Jul 31, 2012 01:43am
no they dont-
bob Jul 31, 2012 01:47am
The Afghans are of course - for allowing their country into becoming a battlefield- there is a price to pay when playing one super power against another.It has serious consequences for the people.