Pakistan exempts Afghans awaiting resettlement to US from deportation

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has ordered authorities not to arrest Afghans who are waiting to be relocated to the United States, as it wages a crackdown on illegal migration.

More than 180,000 people have returned to Afghanistan since Islamabad ordered 1.7 million Afghans it says are living illegally in Pakistan to leave or face deportation, border officials have said.

Human Rights Watch has previously warned that Afghans awaiting resettlement to the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Canada after fleeing the Taliban government are at risk of deportation after their Pakistan visas expired.

Several Western nations are still in the process of resettling Afghan refugees two years on from the Taliban takeover, forcing many families to wait in limbo for months in Pakistan.

“As per the Embassy of America, 1,150 Afghan nationals are being sponsored for relocation and resettlement to (the) United States,” said the letter from the Interior Ministry, dated November 2 and seen by AFP. “It is requested that it may be ensured that the Afghan nationals who are mentioned in the subject list, are not arrested till further notice.” It comes after the United States on Wednesday called on Islamabad to let through Afghans who are seeking asylum.

“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,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Wednesday.

Millions of Afghans have poured into Pakistan in recent decades, fleeing a series of violent conflicts, including an estimated 600,000 since the Taliban government seized power in August 2021 and imposed its harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Pakistan has said the deportations are to protect its “welfare and security” after a sharp rise in attacks, which the government blames on militants operating from Afghanistan.

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