KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.N. agencies have reported a sharp increase in Afghans returning home since Pakistan launched a crackdown on people living in the country illegally. They urged Pakistan to suspend the policy before it was too late to avoid a “human rights catastrophe.”
Pakistan earlier this month said it will arrest and deport undocumented or unregistered foreigners after Oct. 31. Two provinces bordering Afghanistan have set up deportation centers. The government says the campaign is not aimed at a particular nationality, but it mostly affects Afghans who make up the bulk of foreigners living in the country.
U.N. agencies said Friday there are more than 2 million undocumented Afghans in Pakistan, at least 600,000 of whom fled after the Taliban takeover in 2021.
Afghanistan is going through a severe humanitarian crisis, particularly for women and girls, who are banned by the Taliban from education beyond sixth grade, most public spaces and many jobs. There are also restrictions on media, activists, and civil society organizations.
The International Organization for Migration and the U.N. refugee agency said tens of thousands of Afghans left Pakistan between Oct.3-15, with many citing fear of arrest as the reason for their departure.
“We urge the Pakistan authorities to suspend forcible returns of Afghan nationals before it is too late to avoid a human rights catastrophe,” the agencies said. “We believe many of those facing deportation will be at grave risk of human rights violations if returned to Afghanistan, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, cruel and other inhuman treatment.”
Pakistan insists that nobody will be mistreated after their arrest and says the deportations will be executed in a “phased and orderly” manner.
Its deportation campaign comes amid strained relations with its neighbors. Pakistan accuses the Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan of sheltering militants who go back and forth across the countries’ shared 2,611-kilometer (1,622-mile) border and stage attacks on Pakistani security forces.
The Taliban deny the accusations.