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Why Pakistan is forcing lakhs of Afghan migrants to leave

Context- Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan saw long lines of trucks and a desperate trudge over the crossing on Thursday as Islamabad ordered undocumented migrants to leave the country.

While the order is meant for all foreigners, the main brunt is being borne by Afghans, who make up the biggest group of refugees in Pakistan. The government had given illegal migrants the deadline of October 31 to leave, following which they would face arrest and expulsion. Hours before the deadline, it began rounding up those without documents. Homes of some were razed, in order to make them leave. Over 4 million Afghans live in Pakistan, and the government estimates 1.7 million of these are undocumented.

(Credits- Times of India)

The border, between Peshawar in Pakistan and Jalalabad in Afghanistan, usually closes by sunset. Reuters quoted a government official as saying that 1,28,000 Afghans had left through the Torkham crossing since the Pakistani government’s order. Others are crossing through Chaman, in Balochistan.

Why is Pakistan deporting Afghan migrants?

  • The government has stuck to its decision to deport them despite appeals from the United Nations, rights groups and Western embassies.
  • Those being forced to return face an uncertain future, with Afghanistan struggling under the weight of a collapsed economy, devastating earthquakes, food insecurity, and human rights violations under the Taliban regime. Women and girls who return will not be allowed education or jobs.
  • Many of the migrants fled Afghanistan in the 1970s during the Soviet war, and have little ties to, or opportunities in, their home country. Many were born in Pakistan. Also, many have not been able to secure documents simply because of the long process of getting one issued.
  • Pakistan, however, maintains that it has the right to look after its own economic affairs and security. Pakistan’s economy is in dire straits, and it says undocumented migrants who pay no taxes are a drain on its scarce resources.
  • More importantly, the Pakistan government has accused Afghan migrants of involvement in terror attacks, street crimes, and organised crimes such as drug trafficking. Pakistani authorities said Afghan nationals were found to be involved in attacks against the government and the army, including 14 of this year’s 24 suicide bombings.
  • At particular risk upon returning will be those who had worked for the US before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Many of them had moved to Pakistan to eventually secure a passage to the US.
  • According to NPR, Washington has asked Islamabad “to ensure the protection of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, including those in the US resettlement and immigration pipelines.”

Why take the decision now?

  • The desperate condition of Pakistan’s economy and the terror attacks by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan are triggers. But another important factor is that Pakistan at present is under a caretaker government, which is managing affairs till General Elections in February. This government is, thus, insulated from the potential political or electoral fallout of the expulsions.
  • The deportation order has been met with some criticism in Pakistan. On Wednesday, a few politicians and rights activists filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the “mass deportation”, Dawn reported.

How has the Taliban reacted?

  • The Taliban has criticised the deportations, and asked for more time to prepare. Authorities in Afghanistan are setting up temporary camps for the returnees in border areas, where they will be provided food, shelter, health care and SIM cards, reported AP.
  • The Taliban has also said it will help the returnees find jobs.

Conclusion- Afghanistan Just recently had an Earthquake on the top of that Winters are also approaching. Hence, it may prove extremely difficult for the fragile economy to accommodate so many dependents at once going forward.

Syllabus- GS-2; International Relations

Source- Indian Express

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