Undocumented Immigrants To Voluntarily Repatriate As October 31 Deadline Approaches Nearer

PESHAWAR, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 29th Oct, 2023) The repatriation process of undocumented immigrants was expedited through Torkham border where illegal refugees are being seen returning to their homes in significant numbers with only two days left in the October 31st deadline.

The return process of undocumented Afghans through the Torkham border has been accelerated from where 33, 555 illegal immigrants went to their home country between October 1-23, 2023 in a safe and dignified manner.

Lateefur Rehman, spokesman of KP Home and Tribal Affairs Department told APP on Sunday that repatriation of undocumented Afghan refugees was accelerated as the October 31 deadline approaches fast and approximately  33,555 undocumented Afghan immigrants have left for their home country between October 1- 23 through Torkham border that connect Pakistan and Afghanistan through Khyber district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Afghan families included 2,772 families, consisting of 8,309 men, 5,457 women, and 19,789 children, reflecting the diverse demographic nature of the Afghan population.  The voluntary repatriation process through the busy Torkham border was started after the government instructed all unregistered immigrants to return to their native countries by October 31, 2023. 

He said Additional Chief Secretary Home and Tribal Affairs Department, Muhammad Abid Majeed has visited Afghan Refugees camps at Torkham border and Landi Kotal tehsil in District Khyber and reviewed all the arrangements for the smooth return of undocumented refugees.

Deputy Commissioner Khyber, Abdul Nasir Khan briefed the Additional Chief Secretary on the preparations and facilities of the district administration for the efficient return of all illegal foreign nationals at Landikotal and Torkham border

The Additional Chief Secretary inspected the facilities and arrangements including water, tents and food services made for the smooth and voluntary return of the immigrants.

He reviewed preparations for repatriation in relief camps established at the Torkham border and Landikotal and expressed satisfaction with all necessary measures, which were put in place for the smooth return of Afghan refugees.

Deputy Commissioner Khyber, Abdul Nasir Khan presented a detailed briefing to the Additional Chief Secretary on the steps taken by district administration to facilitate the dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees to their home country.

The ACS expressed satisfaction over the work done so far and directed to providing facilities to Afghan refugees. Pakistan has hosted over 4.4 million Afghan refugees since 1979 after the USSR invasion of Afghanistan and has shared all essential services including hospitals, schools, colleges, transport, businesses and jobs with Afghan brothers and sisters during the last 44 years.

Pakistani in order to provide speedy relief and humanitarian assistance to over 4.4 million Afghan refugees mostly settled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, had set up Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (car) at Peshawar that provided food, shelter, healthcare, education, and other essential services to Afghan refugees accommodated in 43 camps and urban areas during this long period in a dignified manner.

Meanwhile, the residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and seven merged tribal districts are fully behind the government‘s decision to evacuate all illegal immigrants, citing the anticipated improvements in the economy,  employment opportunities and law and order situation.

Besides food, roads, higher education and water services, all provincial governments in Pakistan have provided psycho-social support, and skills training for livelihood opportunities and opened schools to facilitate Afghan refugees.

Khyber  Pakhtunkhwa’s residents while lauding the government‘s decision, expressed the hope that the departure of illegally residing foreigners will help bring about positive changes in their region, which has been grappling with poverty, socioeconomic imbalances,  unemployment and other socioeconomic challenges.

Riaz Khan, a resident of the Nowshera district highlighted the problems faced due to the presence of influx of illegal refugees in KP and expressed the hope that prices and rent of properties and daily use commodities would be reduced after the return of all illegal immigrants to their home countries.

He said the poverty prevalent in Khyber  Pakhtunkhwa especially in merged tribal districts would be slashed with positive impact expected from the departure of these illegal foreign residents. He said illegal foreigners’ departure will pave the way for greater prosperity and employment opportunities for the local workforce.

The Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees, Peshawar official told APP that over 1.5 million Afghan nationals had entered Pakistan after August 15, 2021, when the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul.

He said almost half of those Afghans got themselves registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) seeking resettlement in Europe, the UK, the United States and other countries, while the rest stayed undocumented.

The official said most of the undocumented Afghan nationals lived in urban areas, especially Peshawar, Karachi and Mardan districts and bringing them under the documentation net was a big challenge.

Lateef Rehman said that as per the Government‘s decision, no extension in the deadline for undocumented immigrant repatriation would be made and all illegal foreigners have to return to their home country by October 31.

The spokesman said that all suspects have been identified through mapping and geo-fencing for deportation. Barrister Faroz Jamal Kakakhel, caretaker Information Minister KP said that repatriation of undocumented immigrants was not country-specific and that no country in the world can allow an illegal stay of immigrants.

By Thursday last, he said about 60,000 undocumented immigrants returned to their home countries voluntarily. The Minister said that a clear order was issued to all illegal immigrants to leave Pakistan by October 31, adding Federal Government policy would be followed after the expiry of the deadline in letter and spirit.

Manzoorul Haq, former Ambassador told APP that he had visited many countries but never seen immigrants living without legal and visa documents.

He supported Govt of Pakistan‘s decision to expel all illegal immigrants including undocumented Afghan refugees after October 31. He said the Foreign Office spokeswoman had clarified that the deportation deadline was not Afghans specific rather it was for all unregistered immigrants which was a highly positive approach. Ambassador Manzoor said that keeping in view the region’s geopolitical situation, it was the right time to address the refugee issue once and for all.

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