Home Editorial Editorial: Repatriating Undocumented Afghans

Editorial: Repatriating Undocumented Afghans

Pakistan must encourage legal migration and provide pathways to citizenship for those wishing to secure it

by Editorial

File photo. Jawed Tanveer—AFP

The ongoing repatriation of illegally residing foreigners from Pakistan—primarily Afghans—has taken a new turn, with existing border crossings proving insufficient to handle the surge. To resolve the situation, interim Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai has announced the establishment of new border crossings in the province, stressing the deportation of all undocumented migrants would continue without hindrance. The news comes within days of a report compiled by the Sindh Home Department describing illegal immigrants as a “security threat,” and warning that the provincial demography would be completely altered by 2040 if they were not expelled.

According to Achakzai, new crossings have been established in the Badini-Shinband area of Qila Saifullah, as well as the Brabcha and Noor Wahab areas of Chagai district. He noted that officials involved in the process were facing difficulties in processing and registering illegal migrants traveling through Balochistan from Sindh, hinting at the large volume of foreigners leaving Pakistan. According to authorities, more than 280,000 Afghan nationals have returned to their homeland voluntary since the government announced the Oct. 31 deadline for their departure. Additionally, authorities have since started to forcibly deport illegal migrants, with tens of thousands already evicted.

The Sindh Home Department’s report, meanwhile, carries hints of why there has been little political pushback against the new policy. Despite not having direct access to the province, authorities estimate hundreds of thousands of Afghans are residing there illegally. In regions of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa bordering Afghanistan, they are estimated to number even more, leading to assumptions they could upset the numerical majority of the local population.

Arguably, the new policy was rushed, leaving less than 30 days for many migrants who have lived in Pakistan for decades to return to their “homeland.” However, it is also a long-overdue course-correction, as no sovereign state can afford to ignore a burgeoning population of illegal foreigners, especially amidst a prevailing economic crunch and security concerns. Pakistan should encourage legal migration and provide pathways to citizenship for those who wish to secure it, but this can only come alongside an abandonment of its decades-spanning practice of looking the other way as illegal foreigners set up permanent residence here.

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