INTERNATIONAL

Pakistan to start expelling illegal immigrants in phases from November 1

As the deadline loomed for all undocumented immigrants, including 1.7 million Afghan nationals, to leave Pakistan, interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Monday said the caretaker government will start expelling these aliens in phases if they do not leave the country voluntarily.

A dark street in a commercial area in Lahore, Pakistan.(Bloomberg)

Pakistan this month announced October 31 as the date for the removal of the illegal immigrants.

“After November 1, the state will commence its operation to expel aliens in phases,” The Express Tribune newspaper quoted Bugti as saying.

Bugti confirmed that over 20,000 illegal foreigners have left Pakistan voluntarily over the last three days. He stated that all provincial governments would play an active part in the operation against illegal foreigners. “Committees have been formed on divisional and district levels,” he added.

The interim interior minister further clarified that the expulsion of illegal foreign nationals will be carried out in phases, and people with no travel documents will be deported in the first phase.

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

“The government has completed the geo-mapping and will locate illegal foreign nationals wherever they are,” he said, adding that they have established holding centres to keep illegal foreigners after the deadline.

“All basic facilities will be provided at these centres to illegal foreign nationals,” he assured in a question inquiring about their safety.

Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees for the past four decades when millions of them fled Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation.

The October 31 deadline given to illegal immigrants, especially Afghans, received widespread criticism.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the Pakistani government to “suspend forcible returns of Afghan nationals before it is too late to avoid a human rights catastrophe”.

Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch on Monday said that the repatriation plan applied to “all illegal foreigners residing in Pakistan, irrespective of their nationality and country of origin”.

“The decision is in the exercise of Pakistan’s sovereign domestic laws and compliant with applicable international norms and principles,” she said in a statement. The FO spokesperson added that all foreign nationals legally residing/registered in Pakistan were “beyond the purview of this plan”.

“The government of Pakistan takes its commitments towards the protection and safety needs of those in vulnerable situations with utmost seriousness. Our record of the last forty years in hosting millions of our Afghan brothers and sisters speaks for itself,” she said.

Baloch also called on the international community to scale up efforts to address “protracted refugee situations through advancing durable solutions as a matter of priority”.

“Pakistan will continue to work with our international partners to this end,” Baloch said.

Earlier, the Afghan government also criticised Pakistan for the decision and urged it to reconsider it.

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