At the beginning of October, a crackdown on "undocumented" foreign nationals living in Pakistan was announced, in which Pakistan has ordered those without legal documentation to voluntarily leave the country by the beginning of November or face deportations.

Currently, the United Nations projects that around one million Afghans in Pakistan are legally registered as refugees and a further 880,000 have legal status to remain. But it is estimated at least a further 1.7 million Afghans in Pakistan are now at risk of being forcibly expelled from the country from November 1st. Pakistan's Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti also announced a task force aimed at identifying and confiscating private businesses and assets of "undocumented" Afghans in the country.

From the late 1970s, Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees as many have fled the continuous conflicts in Afghanistan. Numerous Afghans living in Pakistan are therefore second or third-generation refugees: having been born and raised in the country, it is the only home they've ever known.

Additionally, in the past few years, many more have fled Afghanistan over the border in search of safety and security: as a result of the withdrawal of international troops, the change in power in Afghanistan and a deepening humanitarian crisis since 2021, many Afghans have been encouraged to apply for resettlement schemes in various countries like the US, UK and Germany. Most are required to move to a "third country", such as Pakistan, to apply for obtain visas for these schemes. But over two years on, lengthy resettlement processes have left hundreds of thousands in limbo, and therefore extremely vulnerable to deportation.

Why is this happening?

This eviction of these "undocumented" Afghans nationals from Pakistan has seemingly originated from growing tensions between the two countries, precipitated in part by a dramatic string of deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistan in recent months, which Pakistani officials are blaming on the presence of militants in Afghanistan.

What challenges now face Afghan nationals forced to leave Pakistan?

Refugees and internally-displaced people are among the most vulnerable populations in the world. The loss of support networks, stable employment and a permanent place to call home often robs individuals of the capacity to live fully independent and productive lives, and takes an enormous mental and emotional toll. 

Afghans now forced to return from Pakistan will now face this challenge twice over: not only did they have to leave their homes to cross the border to Pakistan, they will now have to once again attempt to rebuild their lives in a place they once felt they had no choice but to leave.

Afghan refugees are the third-largest displaced population in the world, and there are at least 3 million internally-displaced Afghans in Afghanistan itself. This population is in dire need of support and protection by the international community.

We join the UN and other NGOs in urging Pakistan to suspend forcible returns of Afghan nationals immediately.

Charles Davy, Managing Director of Afghanaid, said:

 Almost all of these families are going to need support to find safe homes and secure livelihoods from organisations like Afghanaid. 

“Many of those forced to return will have to settle into already poor communities ill-equipped to support them: with many communities across Afghanistan already facing food shortages, water scarcity and frequent natural disasters which destroy homes and livelihoods, these forced returns threaten to heighten community-level disputes in Afghanistan over sparse resources.

“Afghanaid will continue to work alongside communities to help them become better equipped to welcome returning refugee families - as well as those who have been displaced internally due to conflict or natural disasters - to ensure that they can successfully integrate into their new communities and establish safe and secure lives in Afghanistan.”

We need your help

In 1983, Afghanaid was formed as an organisation in Peshawar, Pakistan to provide support for Afghan refugees fleeing conflict, and the organisation has provided support to Afghans ever since. 

Among our wide-ranging history of programming across Afghanistan, we have worked for many years to deliver livelihood support to help vulnerable people to establish sustainable income sources, as well as running specialised reintegration training for returnees to help them settle into their new communities. Additionally, since the current humanitarian crisis took its grip in the past few years, we have been supporting Afghans to access emergency support - in the past two years alone, we have supported over 2 million Afghans with humanitarian assistance. This has ensured that many families did not have to leave their homes in search of their basic needs, and displaced people and returnees in precarious situations could access vital relief.

As funding shortages continue to threaten aid efforts in Afghanistan, this news is another blow to Afghan men, women and children who continue to grapple with the dire humanitarian crisis. Your donations help us to continue to find solutions so that all Afghans can keep working towards a more secure future.

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