Mass deportation drive sees Pakistan remove over half a million illegal migrants in just three months

Police officers try to control immigrants, mostly Afghans, gather to verify their data at a counter of Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority, in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Pakistan government launched a crackdown on migrants living in the country illegally as a part of the new measure which mainly target all undocumented or unregistered foreigners. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

Pakistan has repatriated over half a million foreign nationals who had been living illegally in the country in just three months, the country’s interior ministry has told the Senate.

A major deportation drive was announced by the Pakistani government in October last year, telling migrants living in the country without the required documents proving they were authorized to do so they must go home by the end of the month.

The interior ministry estimated around 1.73 million Afghan nationals had no right to reside in Pakistan and warned they would be tracked down, detained, and forcibly removed from its territory should they not comply with the request voluntarily.

Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti cited the fact that a majority of suicide bombings that occurred in 2023 were carried out by Afghan nationals — 14 of the 24 recorded attacks.

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“There are no two opinions that we are attacked from within Afghanistan and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us. We have given them a Nov. 1 deadline,” he told journalists last year.

In an update to lawmakers earlier this month, the department informed that more than 500,000 migrants had been removed from the country so far.

“Around 1.7 million illegal aliens are unlawfully living in the country, the majority of whom are Afghans. They are living without any legal documentation necessary for staying in the country. 541,210 people have been sent back after the cabinet’s approval of the deportation plan for illegal residents,” its statement read.

It added that the remigration plan was in full swing and authorities were in the process of identifying further transgressors and taking the appropriate action to remove them.

A further 110,064 foreign nationals also left the country voluntarily during the timeframe, the ministry added.

The move was heavily criticized by human rights advocacy groups but has shown how effective a dedicated plan by the authorities to combat illegal immigration.

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Meanwhile in Europe, reports from Germany showed the country was planning to take in expelled Afghan nationals who did not wish to return to their Taliban-governed homeland.

A flight of 188 Afghan migrants ordered to leave Pakistan arrived in Leipzig in the first week of December last year, and under the federal government’s admission program, around 44,000 Afghan nationals have been identified as being eligible to head to Germany, in addition to their family members.

Zeit Online reported back in November that 3,000 Afghan nationals living in Pakistan were close to receiving the green light for their remigration to Germany, and the federal government had enacted “protective measures” by sending a list of names to the Pakistani foreign ministry to ensure they were not forcibly removed before they could board a flight to Berlin.

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