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Pakistan rejects ‘flawed’ US list of potential Afghan resettlers

Says US list of 25,000 Afghans is full of discrepancies: State Department calls on Islamabad to let through Afghan nationals who are seeking asylum

By News Desk

November 2, 2023 11:57 AM


Pakistan rejects ‘flawed’ US list of potential Afghan resettlers

Representational image

 

Pakistan has started rounding up and deporting undocumented foreigners — including 1.7 million Afghan nationals — following a one-month deadline for voluntary departure that expired Wednesday, and also rejected an American list of potential Afghan resettlers declaring it as “flawed”.

Authorities have reported that nearly 250,000 Afghans have returned to their home country voluntarily in the run-up to the November 1 deadline to avoid being arrested and forcibly expelled.

The United Nations and Pakistani officials say those facing deportation include more than 600,000 people who fled Afghanistan after the Islamist Taliban returned to power in August 2021, when the United States and NATO withdrew their troops from the country.

According to Voice of America (VOA), US officials say they are working closely with Pakistani counterparts to ensure the protection of at least 25,000 Afghans who could be eligible for relocation to the United States under a special immigration programme for their services during the two-decade-long presence of American forces in Afghanistan.

But a senior Pakistani official has said that Islamabad had rejected the list because of significant discrepancies. "The list of 25,000 Afghans was shared with Pakistan just days before the deportation deadline was to expire. We examined it thoroughly but found it flawed and incomplete," said the official on Wednesday, who spoke on condition of anonymity for not being authorized to discuss the subject publicly.

The official added that the US side eventually withdrew the list in response to Pakistan's objections and promised to resubmit it after removing the flaws. Washington did not comment immediately on Pakistani assertions.

On Tuesday, a US official said that facilitating "the safe and efficient" resettlement of Pakistan-based eligible Afghan refugees and asylum seekers is a priority for the US administration. "To help protect vulnerable individuals, we have shared a list with the government of Pakistan of more than 25,000 Afghan individuals in the US resettlement and relocation pipelines," said the US official, who spoke anonymously to discuss the policy. "We are in the process of sending letters to those individuals that they can share with local authorities to help identify them as individuals in the US pipeline."

Dozens of Afghan nationals jailed for "minor crimes" also were released from a prison near Islamabad and were transported along with others to the border for repatriation Wednesday.

"This action is a testament to Pakistan's determination to repatriate any individuals residing in the country without proper documentation," Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said on social media platform X.

Pakistan has been praised globally for hosting millions of Afghan refugees who fled the decadelong Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and ensuing factional fighting in the 1990s. Currently, more than 4 million Afghans reside in the country, including 1.4 million legally registered refugees and hundreds of thousands of documented economic migrants.

Pakistani authorities have stated that Afghans living legally in the country are not subject to the crackdown.

Islamabad defends its policy regarding foreigners without legal status, saying Afghan nationals have carried out several suicide bombings in Pakistan amid a recent spike in deadly attacks in the country being orchestrated by Taliban-allied militants from Afghan soil.

The violence has led to anti-Afghan sentiment and calls for forcing the refugee community out of the country.

State Department call

The United States has called on Pakistan to let through Afghans who are seeking asylum.

"We strongly encourage Afghanistan's neighbours including Pakistan to allow entry for Afghans seeking international protection and to coordinate with international humanitarian organisations to provide humanitarian assistance," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Wednesday.


News Desk


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