Pakistan purges undocumented Afghans

Pakistan kicked off an unprecedented crackdown on undocumented immigrants that could send over a million people into the arms of an authoritarian regime. 

What happened: Pakistan commenced the mass arrest and deportation of undocumented immigrants after a deadline to voluntarily leave the country passed this week. While the directive includes all undocumented migrants, it clearly targets recent Afghan migrants. 

  • There were nearly four million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan before the policy, with ~1.7 million of them undocumented and unable to find asylum elsewhere.  
  • Around 200,000 have already left the country voluntarily, with police now going door to door to round up others and offering rewards for those who turn in migrants. 

Why it’s happening: When the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in 2021, ~700,000 refugees fled to Pakistan to escape persecution. This influx stoked tensions in the country, with some leaders blaming Afghans for a weakened economy and resurgence in terrorism

Yes, but: Afghans, some of whom have lived in Pakistan for decades, will be sent off to an authoritarian regime that will restrict their rights and is wholly unequipped to handle them. 

Bottom line: Various human rights groups, including in Pakistan, are condemning the move, with the UN warning Pakistan that it could trigger a “human rights catastrophe.” However, Pakistan’s government, an interim one unworried about optics, has forged ahead.—QH