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More than 400,000 Afghan migrants return home from Pakistan after crackdown

Members of the social group Aurat March demonstrated against the Pakistani government (AP)
Members of the social group Aurat March demonstrated against the Pakistani government (AP) Members of the social group Aurat March demonstrated against the Pakistani government (AP)

More than 400,000 Afghans have returned to their home country following a crackdown on illegal foreigners in the country, Pakistani authorities said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, chief spokesperson of the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan, confirmed the number and told The Associated Press that the majority have been using the border crossings of Torkham and Spin Boldak to return home.

An estimated 1.7 million Afghans had been living in Pakistan when authorities announced a nationwide crackdown, saying that anyone without proper documents had to leave the country by October 31 or face arrest.

However, Pakistani officials said the other 1.4 million Afghans registered as refugees need not worry as only people without proper documentation are being sought after.

In the 1980s, millions of Afghans fled to neighbouring Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of their country. The numbers witnessed a spike after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.

Migrants depart
Migrants depart Afghans wait for transport to depart for their homeland, in Karachi (AP)

Pakistan also introduced plans under which hundreds of thousands of residents in the south-western border town of Chaman would need visas to cross between the two countries. They previously had special permits.

On Monday, hundreds briefly blocked a key road leading to the Chaman border, disrupting traffic and the repatriation of some of the Afghans.

Residents in Chaman have held several protests, asking Pakistan to allow them to continue using the special permits for business purposes and to meet with relatives who live in the Afghan border city of Spin Boldak.

Since November 1, police in Pakistan have been going door-to-door to check migrants’ documentation.

Pakistani officials had said before that the crackdown involves all foreigners in the country, but most of those affected are Afghan nationals.

The latest development comes days after the World Health Organisation warned that about 1.3 million Afghans were expected to return to their country of origin from Pakistan despite the onset of cold weather. Such expulsions have drawn widespread criticism from international and domestic human rights groups.

The Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan said it was providing shelter and food to returnees.