Country-wide action to repatriate undocumented foreigners has started as the deadline for all such individuals and families expired on Tuesday. 

All the holding points in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other provinces have been provided with facilities to repatriate the foreigners after completing legal process. Apart from providing Nadra mobile units, offices of magistrate and other officials have been set up at the holding point on Nasir Bagh Road to complete legal formalities before deporting undocumented Afghans. Doctors and other facilities have also been provided at the centre where adequate security has been arranged.It was learnt that foreigners from Islamabad and Punjab would be brought to the holding point in Landikotal. Others from Peshawar and different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be shifted to the holding camp on Nasir Bagh Road from where they will be taken to the Torkham border.A control room was set up at the Home Department to monitor the process where Grade 17 or above officers will represent different departments, including police, district administration, intelligence agencies, Nadra, Passport and Immigration and Provincial Disaster Management Authority.Many on social media asked the government to reconsider its decision on Afghans. HRCP has issued an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Secretary-General and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urging them to call for immediate action by the Pakistani government to cease the forced repatriation of Afghan nationals.Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman asked the government that Afghan authorities should be consulted before the process to ensure a respectable repatriation of the Afghans while keeping in view the problems in their country. “Also, the documented Afghans should not be bothered during the process. There are reports that administration and influential people are blackmailing many of them,” Maulana Fazlur Rehman said in a statement.The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has offered to provide technical assistance and financial support if Pakistan agrees to register all the undocumented Afghan migrants. “We offered technical assistance and financial support to facilitate if Pakistan agrees to the registration mechanism of the undocumented Afghan migrants. There should have been a proper way of dealing with these undocumented migrants as the majority of them who are being deported are vulnerable and are likely to be prosecuted,” Qaisar Khan Afridi, a spokesman for UNHCR, told The News.According to the UNHCR spokesman, around 600,000 Afghans arrived in Pakistan in 2021, following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the majority of them are vulnerable to being prosecuted if they werte sent back to Afghanistan.According to the UNHCR, 1.3 million Afghans are living in Pakistan as refugees as they have Proof of Registration cards.The authorities have made it clear that Afghan nationals possessing Proof of Registration cards or Afghan Citizen Cards will not be bothered or repatriated during the drive. The officials said that in the first phase, those Afghans and other foreigners who didn’t possess any documents would be repatriated. Also, action is planned against those who obtained Pakistani CNICs and many teams have been assigned to investigate their properties and businesses.Hundreds of families are leaving via Torkham daily amid tears as many of them were born in Pakistan and never visited Afghanistan in decades. Moving scenes were witnessed in several towns, and cities as several families leaving for Afghanistan spent their entire lives in the same neighbourhood, sharing mosques, hujras and even small businesses with locals.The majority of Afghans started departing for their country, before the expiry of the deadline. It seems Pakistani authorities didn’t expect such an unprecedented response from the Afghan people in Pakistan as they were helpless in handling the vehicles transporting them. The road right from Takhta Baig in Jamrud subdivision to Landikotal in the Khyber tribal district remained jammed with heavy vehicles stuck waiting for clearance. The paramilitary Frontier Corps, and local police were seen desperately trying to manage the situation. They came from all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Those coming from Punjab complained about the alleged harassment by the Punjab Police, saying they didn’t even care about the PoR (Proof of Registration) and took each and every Afghan national into custody.Samiullah Samoon who heads immigration registration at Torkham said those crossing are facing an emergency situation. “Neither the Islamic Emirate nor NGOs… had preparations in place on such a scale. This situation was sudden,” he said, citing issues of water and shelter.By early morning on Monday, a long line snaked out of the registration area and down a road heaving with people, with some providing aid to the migrants and others manning businesses that have sprung up around the ad hoc camp. About 1,000 families were processed on Monday, Samoon said, leaving another 400 still waiting, with thousands more people waiting on the Pakistani side of the border as they race to meet the November 1 deadline.UN agencies, headed up by the IOM, have set up services for those arriving, but have strained under the surge in demand. “During the past two weeks we had 2,500 to 3,000 individuals a day but starting from Friday the numbers doubled on a daily basis,” said IOM regional coordinator Ziad Salih. “Our transit centre is designed to serve up to 750 per day and now we are dealing with 7,000. It’s tiring but we are pushing, we don’t stop.”Samoon said around 60 percent of the families who have returned do not have strong ties in Afghanistan.The Multan divisional administration has planned a crackdown on undocumented, illegal Afghan immigrants after the deadline for volunteer deportation ended. On the instructions of the Punjab government, the Multan divisional administration has prepared an action plan for illegal Afghan residents. While presiding over a meeting here, Commissioner Multan Division Engineer Aamir Khattak said that camps for Afghans have been set up in all the four districts. As many as 656 Afghans from across the division will be deported from Pakistan in phases. Provision of temporary accommodation for illegal Afghans has been completed in the Sports Hostel Multan.Meanwhile, the Punjab Home Ministry has operationalized a dashboard called “Illegal Foreign National Information System” regarding the return of illegally staying foreign nationals. Sources told “Jang” that after the deadline expired, a series of arrests will start from today. Sources said that all deputy commissioners of Punjab have been made focal persons in the respective district and linked to the dashboard containing the information of illegal residents.Training was given to the additional deputy commissioners of 36 districts by the home department to upload the information on the dashboard. They will upload the complete record of arrested foreigners including fingerprints and other details on the dashboard on a daily basis. The deputy commissioner as the focal person will provide buses and coasters for the transfer of arrested foreigners to the holding areas and provide security including police to ensure their safe arrival there.When contacted, Additional Chief Secretary Home Mian Muhammad Shakeel said that after arresting the illegal residents and bringing them to the holding areas, they will be sent to Balochistan and KP for deportation. He said that the stay of foreigners in the holding areas would not be more than two days and during this time they would be provided with other facilities besides food and drinks by the Punjab government.


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2023-11-01

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