Pakistan gives last warning to undocumented immigrants, many Afghan refugees, to leave


ISLAMABAD, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Pakistan on Thursday gave a last warning to all immigrants in the country illegally, including hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals, to leave voluntarily before a Nov. 1 deadline, the country’s caretaker interior minister said on Thursday.

Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti told a news conference in Islamabad that Pakistan was determined to go ahead with a plan to remove all undocumented immigrants after Nov. 1.

Pakistan announced the move in October. It says it took the decision after Afghan nationals were found to be involved in crimes, smuggling and attacks against government and the army, including 14 out of 24 suicide bombings this year.

“All the illegal immigrants have been identified. The state has a complete data,” said Bugti. “I want to appeal one more time that all the illegal immigrants should leave voluntarily by the deadline.”

Bugti warned law enforcement agencies will start an operation to remove people after the expiry of the deadline.

He also said action would be taken against anyone found involved in facilitating or hiding the immigrants.

The immigrants, mostly Afghans, many of whom have lived in Pakistan for years, will be processed at temporary centres being set up by the government.

Those leaving voluntarily will be helped to leave Pakistan, such as preparation of their documents, permission to exchange currency and transportation.

Pakistan has received the largest influx of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Kabul in 1979. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans moved to Pakistan to escape war and conflicts, and many are registered as refugees with the government and U.N. agencies.

The expulsion plan marks a new low in relations between the South Asian neighbours after border clashes in recent months.

Islamabad alleges that the militants use Afghan soil to train fighters and plan attacks inside Pakistan, a charge Kabul denies, saying Pakistani security is a domestic issue.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad, writing by Sakshi Dayal; Editing by Sonali Paul and Michael Perry

Pakistan gives last warning to undocumented immigrants, many Afghan refugees, to leave