Pakistan Orders Authorities Not to Arrest Afghan Asylum Seekers

The government has instructed authorities not to detain Afghans awaiting relocation to the United States, even as it intensifies efforts to curb illegal migration. Over 180,000 individuals have returned to Afghanistan after Pakistan ordered 1.7 million Afghans living there illegally to leave or face deportation, according to border officials.

Several Western countries are still in the process of resettling Afghan refugees two years after the Taliban’s takeover, leaving many families in limbo in Pakistan. Human Rights Watch had previously expressed concerns that Afghans seeking resettlement in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada after escaping the Taliban regime could face deportation once their Pakistani visas expired.

“We strongly encourage Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, to allow entry for Afghans seeking international protection and to coordinate with international humanitarian organizations to provide humanitarian assistance,” stated State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Wednesday. This decision follows the United States’ call on Islamabad to allow Afghans seeking asylum to enter the country.

Millions of Afghans have sought refuge in Pakistan over the years, fleeing various violent conflicts, including an estimated 600,000 since the Taliban seized power in August 2021 and imposed their strict interpretation of Islamic law. Pakistan has cited the need to protect its “welfare and security” as the reason for deportations, attributing a surge in attacks to militants operating from Afghanistan, an allegation that Kabul denies.

According to a letter from the Interior Ministry dated November 2 and seen by AFP, “As per the Embassy of America, 1,150 Afghan nationals are being sponsored for relocation and resettlement to (the) United States. It is requested that it may be ensured that the Afghan nationals who are mentioned in the subject list are not arrested until further notice.”

Simultaneously, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Interior Department has released data on the evacuation of foreigners up to November 3. According to the information, a total of 160,638 illegal foreigners have returned to Afghanistan, including 1,089 families, consisting of 3,675 men, 3,307 women, and 5,558 children. In addition to voluntary departures, 178 foreign deportees were included. Eighty-eight foreigners were deported from Punjab, while 67 individuals were deported from Peshawar, according to officials from the Interior Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A total of 12,689 people have returned to Afghanistan via the Torkham border. From September 17 to November 3, 9,737 foreign families were able to return from the Torkham border, including 44,718 men, 33,699 women, and 82,221 children, as reported by officials from the Interior Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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