ISLAMABAD (AP) — Major international aid agencies on Thursday warned of chaotic and desperate scenes among Afghans who have returned from Pakistan, where security forces are detaining and deporting undocumented or unregistered foreigners.
The crackdown on illegal migration mostly affects Afghans because they are the majority of foreigners living in Pakistan, although the government says it is targeting all who are in the country illegally.
Three aid organizations — the Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee — said many people fleeing the Pakistani crackdown arrived in Afghanistan in poor condition.
“The conditions in which they arrive in Afghanistan are dire, with many having endured arduous journeys spanning several days, exposed to the elements, and often forced to part with their possessions in exchange for transportation,” the agencies said in a statement.
Between 9,000 and 10,000 Afghans are now crossing the border every day from Pakistan. Previously it was around 300 a day, according to agency teams on the ground.
Returning Afghans have nowhere to go and the agencies said they fear for people’s survival and reintegration in a country overwhelmed by natural disasters, decades of war, a struggling economy, millions of internally displaced people and a humanitarian crisis.
Salma Ben Aissa, the International Rescue Committee’s country director in Afghanistan, said returnees face a bleak future, especially if they lived in Pakistan for decades.
Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities say they have prepared temporary camps for Afghans in border areas, providing people with food, shelter, health care and SIM cards.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said he assured the Taliban’s top diplomat in the country, Ahmad Shakib, that Afghan women and children will be exempt from biometric tests like fingerprinting to facilitate their return.
Bugti told Shakib that Afghans will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity, according to a ministry statement. No action is being taken against those who have been registered as living in Pakistan or have an Afghan citizen card, he added.
Pakistani police are carrying out raids across the country to check foreigners’ documents.
Authorities demolished mud-brick homes on the outskirts of the capital of Islamabad earlier this week to force Afghans to leave the area. Household items were buried under rubble after heavy machinery pulled down the makeshift dwellings.
Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghans over the decades, including those who fled their country during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation.