PESHAWAR: Over 10,000 Afghan migrants flocked to the border on Tuesday, which was the final day before the deadline for 1.7 million Afghans to leave Pakistan voluntarily or face arrest and deportation.
The government has announced that it will begin arresting undocumented Afghans from Wednesday and transporting them to new holding centers, where they will be processed and repatriated to Afghanistan.
The Taliban regime in Kabul condemns this policy as “harassment”.
“Thousands of Afghan refugees are waiting in vehicles, trucks, and lorries, and the numbers are increasing,” said Irshad Mohmand, a senior government official at the Torkham border, according to AFP.
“More than 10,000 refugees have gathered since morning.”
Since the beginning of October, over 100,000 Afghan migrants have fled Pakistan following the government’s announcement that 1.7 million illegally residing Afghans have one month to leave.
“To avoid any mistreatment by the authorities, I have decided to leave,” said Zulfiqar Khan, who was born to refugee parents in a sprawling Peshawar aid camp, as quoted by AFP last week.
More than 80% have exited through the northern Torkham border in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the majority of Afghan migrants reside.
Although families are leaving voluntarily, police in the province have not yet begun arrests, while Afghan refugees in Karachi and Islamabad have reported arrests, harassment, and extortion.
Over the course of decades of conflict, millions of Afghans have crossed the border, making Pakistan the host of one of the world’s largest refugee populations.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Afghans have sought refuge in Pakistan since the Taliban took control in August 2021.
Pakistan argues that the deportations aim to protect the “welfare and security” of the country, where anti-Afghan sentiment has been rising amidst prolonged economic hardship and an increase in cross-border militancy.