Pakistan: Deadline for voluntary return ends, arrest of Afghan refugees starts

afghan refugee deportation in pakistan
Representative Photo

As Pakistan’s deadline for Afghan refugees and other foreign nationals living within its borders came to an end, a massive operation was launched to apprehend and relocate these individuals to detention camps. This move is part of a broader effort to regulate and control the presence of undocumented foreign residents within the country.

The operation began immediately after the deadline expiration, with reports of arrests and detainments coming from across Pakistan. In Karachi, for instance, four Afghan nationals were arrested and subsequently transferred to a holding camp. The District East Police deployed a substantial force to Sohrab Goth Square, using loudspeakers to instruct undocumented foreigners to comply with the authorities and return to their respective countries.

Repatriation efforts start in Islamabad

Similarly, in Islamabad, after the government’s deadline for Afghan and other foreign residents had lapsed, the police conducted an extensive operation in the E-11 sector, leading to the transfer of numerous individuals to the Golra Police Station. Islamabad’s law enforcement has now initiated a comprehensive crackdown on foreign nationals residing within the city.

The situation is not limited to Islamabad and Karachi alone; reports from Chaman district in Balochistan indicate that dozens of foreigners have been detained from various areas. Afghan refugees families are being registered and moved to a camp specifically designated for this purpose. It is estimated that more than 5,000 Afghan migrants have already reached this camp.

Provincial police chiefs are actively involved in overseeing these operations. The Inspector General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, Akhtar Haiat Khan, has stated that illegal foreign residents in his province will be relocated to specific facilities and ultimately repatriated. Over 100,000 illegal foreign residents have already voluntarily left the region.

Punjab and Rawalpindi

In Punjab, the Inspector General, Usman Anwar, announced that the eviction of illegal foreign residents will be conducted in phases, commencing on November 3. Holding points will be established to manage the transition, with the district administration responsible for logistics and security.

In Rawalpindi, more than 100 illegally resident Afghans were detained following the deadline, and holding centers were set up in Attock, Jhelum, Chakwal, and Rawalpindi. Those detained will be sent to the Torkham border for repatriation. Additionally, the police have taken action against individuals who provide shelter or employment to illegal foreign residents.

Hence, the situation remains dynamic, with illegal Afghan residents reportedly going into hiding across Rawalpindi. Law enforcement agencies continue to conduct operations to apprehend these individuals, as no voluntary surrenders have been reported.

Accordingly, in Sargodha, authorities have collected data on over 4,800 illegally resident foreigners across the district, with 470 residing without proper documentation. The first phase of eviction for these illegal residents is set to begin soon.

The government’s efforts to regulate the presence of undocumented foreign nationals in Pakistan have entered a critical phase. It involves comprehensive operations and coordination among various law enforcement agencies and authorities across the country. The exact scale and impact of these operations are expected to become clearer as they unfold in the coming weeks.

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