WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (Reuters) – The United States “strongly” encouraged Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, to allow entry for Afghans seeking protection and urged them to uphold obligations in treatment of refugees, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.
Pakistan has set a Nov. 1 deadline for all illegal immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of Afghans, to leave the country or face forcible expulsion.
BY THE NUMBERS
Some 1.73 million Afghans in Pakistan have no legal documents, according to Islamabad, which alleged that Afghan nationals carried out over a dozen suicide bombings this year.
Pakistan has hosted the largest number of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Kabul in 1979. Islamabad says the number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan totaled 4.4 million.
Some 20,000 or more Afghans who fled the 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan are in Pakistan awaiting the processing of their applications for U.S. Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) or resettlement in the United States as refugees.
“We strongly encourage Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, to allow entry for Afghans seeking international protection and to coordinate with international humanitarian organizations … to provide humanitarian assistance,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson told reporters on Thursday.
Pakistan says the deportation process would be orderly and conducted in phases and could begin with people with criminal records.
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have said Pakistan’s threat to force out Afghan migrants was “unacceptable“.
Relations have deteriorated between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past couple of years, largely over accusations that Islamists fighting the Pakistani state operate from Afghan territory. The Taliban deny this claim.
A group of former top U.S. officials and resettlement organizations have urged Pakistan to exempt from deportation to Afghanistan thousands of Afghan applicants for special U.S. visas or refugee relocation to the United States.
Reporting by Simon Lewis; writing by Kanishka Singh