After the Pakistan administration launched a nationwide deportation drive against around 1.7 million undocumented Afghan refugees, thousands of Afghans have begun leaving the country since the beginning of the month. As on November 6, as many as 1,70,000 Afghans have been repatriated, according to official figures. The Pakistan government had given the unregistered foreign nationals, primarily Afghans, a deadline to leave the country by November 1 or face detention and deportation.

Pakistan later extended the legal residence of the refugees until the end of 2023 but said it would not stop deporting the Afghans it says are “undocumented”.

The mass migration of Afghans into Pakistan began in the late 1970s with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In the latest episode of mass exodus, an estimated of 6 lakh Afghans took refuge in the neighbouring nation in 2021 after the Taliban recaptured power in the country.

Pakistan has blamed the illegal immigrants for rising crime and terror attacks in the country. The failure of the Taliban administration to rein in its offshoot Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has irked the Pakistan administration and the growing tensions between the two countries over recognising the Durand Line too are being seen as reasons for Pakistan to expel Afghan immigrants. Amidst the economic mess that Pakistan finds itself in, Afghans have been accused of ‘stealing’ the jobs of the locals.

Despite warnings from the UN that forcibly deporting Afghans from Pakistan could lead to severe human rights violations including the separation of families and deportation of minors, Pakistan has maintained that it has to prioritise the security and economic situation in the country.

The Afghan refugees, are staring down an uncertain future returning to a homeland that they have never set foot in. The refugee influx is bound to worsen the situation in a country that is grappling with economic turmoil.