Pakistan announces Major Crackdown on migrants who entered the country illegally
Foreigners in Pakistan without proper documentation, of which there are about 1.7 million Afghans, are understandably worried after interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti started a tough crackdown on illegal immigration. Bugti refuted suggestions that the crackdown would be directed only against Afghans, stating that it would have negative effects on individuals of all backgrounds.
Tensions with Afghanistan
Tense ties between Pakistan and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan have prompted this action. Pakistan claims that terrorists with ties to the Taliban are conducting strikes into its territory from Afghanistan.
Voluntary Departure or Face Consequences
The government has set a deadline for illegal migrants to leave Pakistan voluntarily before the end of October to avoid mass arrests and forced deportations. The government also plans to seize the property and assets of those found to be in the country illegally. Additionally, a special phone line will be established to encourage the public to report illegal migrants, with rewards offered for information leading to their arrest.
The First Major Crackdown on Illegal Immigration
This marks the first time that the Pakistani government has initiated such a significant crackdown on illegal immigration.
It's important to note that this shift in immigration policy is occurring during a caretaker government, which serves as a transitional administration between the end of a five-year National Assembly term and upcoming elections.
Concerns from Long-Term Residents
As an example, 57-year-old Afghan fruit seller Fazal Rehman, who settled in Peshawar 30 years ago, is concerned about his legal status in Pakistan. Some Pakistanis, who previously saw no use in it, are now concerned that it is too late to make any changes. They are requesting further time in Pakistan so that they may either prepare for a peaceful future there or leave.
A Long History of Afghan Refugees
One of the largest refugee populations in the world may be found in Pakistan, thanks to the country's safe harbor granted to Afghans fleeing the Soviet rule of their country from 1979 to 1989. Even decades later, Afghans continued to go to Pakistan for protection. Among Pakistan's overall population of 4.4 million, an estimated 1.7 million are undocumented Afghans.
Bugti clarified that Afghans who have registered with Pakistani authorities need not be concerned about the crackdown. Approximately 2.4 million Afghans have refugee status, allowing them to obtain a government ID card for various daily activities, such as banking and school registration.
Afghanistan's Taliban Regime
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021, they have urged Afghan refugees to return, but most are staying in Pakistan or seeking opportunities to emigrate to other countries, including the United States.