This report is supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives
October 25, 2023
By Jamaima Afridi
Despite multiple appeals by humanitarian groups across the country and abroad, the interim government of Pakistan continues to proceed with the deportation of over one million illegal migrants, most of whom are Afghan, by November 1. While many families are making the voluntary journey back to Afghanistan via the Torkham and Chaman borders, they have been barred from taking any goods including livestock (which have been categorized as “prohibited items” by the Pakistani authorities) with them.
Fauzia is a widow and owns some cattle that she is not allowed to take with her across the Torkham border. Her children, who are very attached to their animals, do not want her to give them away. Fauzia says that she is quite literally at crossroads, and is having a hard time selling off her cattle in order to secure some finances before heading back to Afghanistan.
“I wanted to sell my goats but my children began crying. Our neighbour told us they could not purchase them as it would hurt my children. My neighbours were kind, they did not take any rent from me as they said that my children were without a father,” she relates. “But now we are helpless. We have no one in Afghanistan, so we are going with our relatives.”
Among the returning Afghans is a family that survived the floods and are now forced to return to Afghanistan. Safina tells Voicepk.net that problems keep mounting for them and now they do not know what to do when they finally return.
“We lived in Sardaryab. Everything of ours was washed away about eight months ago in a flood, including our cards and tazkira (Afghan identity card). We do not have any documentation,” she says. She narrates that they went to Punjab where their stay was extremely difficult due to their status as aliens. “I have made a few handicrafts with different fabrics, but they are all stuck at the border.”
She says that her husband does business with junk materials, but now that they are all heading for Afghanistan, they have to start from scratch.
“My husband will see what we can do. Maybe he will buy a handcart? We have no relative there, nor a home.”
Zeba Bibi, who has been living in Pakistan for the past 40 years sans any documents. She laments that her children, who were born in raised in Pakistan, will be uprooted and forced to resettle in a foreign country.
“We have lived here for 40 years. My children were born and brought up here. They are not happy to leave Pakistan because they consider it their homeland, and going to Afghanistan feels like going to a different country.”
She says that the interim government is destroying their homes in a bid to force them to leave, and the treatment being meted out to them at border crossings by the authorities is also extremely demoralizing.
“We have been at the border since six in the morning, and now it is noon. If they are forcing us out, at least give us proper passage. We are being corralled through a narrow corridor like animals, and the women, elderly and every other Afghan are being disrespected by the police and Frontier Corps,” she says.
Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Abbas Khan says that the government is adamant on deportations as there have never been such a large influx of undocumented Afghans as in the past few years. He added that the according to the Government of Pakistan, Afghanistan’s security and economy have stabilized which is why there is no longer any reason for Afghan migrants to stay in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are appealing to Pakistan to extend protection to Afghan nationals who came to Pakistan due to threats to their lives, which may be exacerbated upon their return to Afghanistan.