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UN opposes Pakistan plan to evict 'illegal immigrants'

October 3, 2023 at 4:18 pm

Afghan refugees, who fled their countries due to clashes and violence for the past 40 years, stage a silent demonstration as they camp outside of the National Press Club demanding treatment in hospitals, education and accommodation rights in Islamabad, Pakistan on 11 July 11 2022 [Muhammed Semih Uğurlu – Anadolu Agency]

The UN, on Tuesday, opposed a deadline set by Pakistan to evict over 1 million “illegal immigrants”, saying “the return must be voluntary and without any pressure”, Anadolu Agency reports.

“Any refugee return must be voluntary and without any pressure to ensure protection for those seeking safety,” Qaisar Khan Afridi, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Anadolu.

Pakistan, on Tuesday, gave a one-month deadline to all the “illegal immigrants” to leave the country by 1 November.

“We have seen disconcerting press reports about a plan to deport undocumented Afghans and we are seeking clarity from our government partners,” Afridi further said.

He urged Islamabad which “has been generously hosting refugees for more than 40 years” to put in place a mechanism to ensure that Afghans with international protection are not deported.

“We must also keep in mind that those fleeing persecution often do not have the necessary documents and travel permissions,” he maintained.

He said the UNHCR stands ready to support Pakistan in developing a mechanism to manage and register people in need of international protection on its territory and respond to “particular vulnerabilities”.

Pakistan has remained a generous refugee host for decades. This role has been acknowledged globally but more needs to be done to match its generosity

he went on to say.

According to the latest UN figures, some 1.3 million Afghans enjoy the status of registered refugees, while another 880,000 have legal status to stay in Pakistan.

At least 700 Afghans have been arrested since early September in Karachi alone and hundreds more in other cities, police figures said.

READ: Pakistan sets 1 November deadline for ‘illegal immigrants’ to leave