Pakistan has expanded its border centers to facilitate the return of numerous undocumented Afghan nationals, in spite of appeals from refugee organizations to reconsider its large-scale expulsion initiatives.
Abdul Nasir Khan, the Deputy Commissioner for the Khyber district, reported that the facilities at the northwestern border crossing of Torkham, which serves as the primary re-entry point for most Afghan immigrants, have been expanded threefold to accommodate the growing number of returnees. He emphasized that this expansion has substantially improved the returnees’ experience, as they no longer need to endure long wait times in queues at the border crossing. This development follows the passing of a Wednesday deadline for Afghan nationals residing illegally in Pakistan to depart the country.
However, those returning to Afghanistan have shared stories of the difficulties they faced while leaving Pakistan and expressed uncertainty about their future. One individual, Mohammad Ismael Rafi, who had lived in Chaman for 22 years and had run a retail business, described the arduous three days he and his family spent on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He was grateful to have returned to his homeland but mentioned that it took six days for him and his 16 family members to relocate from Pakistan to a makeshift tent village on the Afghan side of the border.
Rafi also alleged that Pakistani officials demanded bribes in exchange for processing his repatriation, a claim that authorities have denied. He has temporarily rented a house in Kandahar, intending to move to his ancestral home in Helmand province.
In the meantime, Pakistan’s interim government has disregarded calls from the United Nations, human rights organizations, and Western embassies to reconsider its plan to expel over 1 million of the 4 million Afghans residing in the country.
The Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan, coping with the sudden surge in returnees, has established temporary transit camps to offer food and medical assistance.
Various organizations, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, and International Rescue Committee, have reported chaotic and desperate conditions among those arriving in Afghanistan.
Abdul Nasir Khan revealed that on Thursday, 19,744 Afghans crossed the border, with 147,949 having done so since the government’s deadline announcement. Over 35,000 undocumented Afghans have departed through the Chaman border. Authorities have indicated a willingness to delay the repatriation process for individuals with health or other impediments to travel.
In response to the challenges faced by Afghan women and children, Islamabad has eased the biometric requirements, streamlining the hours-long border crossing procedure.