Pakistan to deport over 1 mn illegal immigrants after Nov 1 deadline

Pakistan Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti. — IANS

New Delhi, Oct 3 (IANS) Hours after the Pakistan caretaker government’s decision to deport over 1 million “illegal immigrants” after the November 1 deadline, the United Nations (UN) said on Tuesday that refugees residing in Pakistan should be allowed to exit the country voluntarily and no pressure should be exerted on them, media reports said.

“Any refugee return must be voluntary and without any pressure to ensure protection for those seeking safety,” Qaisar Khan Afridi, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Anadolu.

The Pak interim government earlier in the day ordered all illegal immigrants, including 1.73 million Afghan nationals, to leave the country or face expulsion after revealing that 14 of 24 suicide bombings in the country this year were carried out by Afghan nationals, Geo News reported.

“We have given them a November 1 deadline,” said Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti, adding that all illegal immigrants should leave voluntarily or face forcible expulsion after that date.

Bugti said some 1.73 million Afghan nationals in Pakistan had no legal documents to stay, adding a total of 4.4 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, Geo News reported.

The UNHCR official termed the press reports about a plan to deport undocumented Afghans “disconcerting” and said the body was seeking clarity from “our government partners”.

Afridi asked Pakistan to come up with a plan that ensures all Afghan nations with international protection are not deported, noting that Islamabad has been “generously hosting refugees for more than 40 years”.

“We must also keep in mind that those fleeing persecution often do not have the necessary documents and travel permissions,” he added, Geo News reported.

Islamabad has received the largest influx of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Kabul in 1979, Geo News reported.

Pakistan has also maintained militants โ€” including those of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) โ€” use Afghan soil to train fighters and plan attacks inside Pakistan.

“Illegal” immigrants or “aliens” have till November 1, 2023, to leave Pakistan voluntarily, said Bugti on Tuesday, The Express Tribune reported.

He also warned that action will be taken against those found residing in the country unlawfully.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting of the apex committee on the national action plan and eliminating terrorism, Bugti stressed that the caretaker government’s priority was ensuring the safety of Pakistani citizens.

The announcement comes after a deadly suicide blast claimed the lives of at least 60 people in Balochistan’s Mastung and left several others injured last Friday.

That same day at least five people were killed in a blast inside a mosque in a police station in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district.

Illegal immigrants should leave before November 1 or they would face forcible expulsion, he said.

The minister further warned that businesses being run by illegal migrants would be confiscated.

All law enforcement agencies are being mobilised to eliminate terrorism and ensure the exit of illegal foreigners, he stressed, The Express Tribune reported.

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