Thousands of Afghans continue to flood back into the country from Pakistan as they seek to avoid deportation following a deadline from Islamabad for undocumented migrants to leave, a move the United Nations warned could lead to “severe” human rights violations.
As of November 2, officials said more than 165,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan in the month since the government ordered some 1.7 million migrants — more than 1 million of whom are Afghan nationals who fled following the August 2021 seizure of power in Kabul by Taliban militants — to leave or face arrest and deportation.
The majority have rushed to the border in recent days as the November 1 deadline approached and police began to open dozens of centers to detain arrested Afghans before expelling them. On the other side of the border, Taliban officials have also opened temporary transit camps to assist those returning.
More than 100 people were detained in one police operation in the city of Karachi on November 2, while police rounded up 425 Afghans in Quetta, the city closest to the Chaman border crossing.
WATCH: Afghan refugees in Pakistan, many having traveled for days, crossed into Afghanistan as a November 1 deadline to leave the country took effect. Islamabad has vowed to deport an estimated 1.7 million undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan if they don’t leave voluntarily.
Islamabad has said the deportations are to protect its “welfare and security” in Pakistan after a sharp rise in attacks, which the government blames on militants operating from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s Taliban-run administration has dismissed Pakistan’s accusations against Afghan migrants and has asked all countries hosting Afghan refugees to give them more time to prepare for repatriation.
The Afghan Embassy in Islamabad has said the move will further damage relations between the neighboring countries.
Pakistan has brushed off calls to reconsider its decision from the UN, rights groups, and Western governments, who have urged it to incorporate into its plan a way to identify and protect Afghans facing the risk of persecution at home from the ruling militants.
At the country’s busiest border crossing at Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, officials worked into the early hours of November 1 to clear a line of 28,000 people that stretched for 7 kilometers, AFP reported.
Just over 129,000 have fled from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial Interior Ministry said, while a total of 38,100 have crossed through Chaman in Balochistan Province, border officials there told AFP.
Authorities on the Afghan side of the border have set up a center several kilometers from a border crossing, as well as camps for families with nowhere to go.
WATCH: In Karachi, Afghan men and boys on November 1 were put on buses and taken to a temporary detention center.
Pakistan is home to more than 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of them undocumented, Islamabad says, although many have lived in Pakistan for their entire lives.
About 600,000 Afghans have crossed into neighboring Pakistan since the Taliban seized power and imposed its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, joining a large number there since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Some Afghans who have been ordered to leave have never been to Afghanistan and wonder how they can start a new life there.
Pakistan’s move to remove undocumented foreigners is seen as part of an anti-immigrant crackdown that has been criticized by human rights groups.
The Pakistan People’s Party, National Democratic Movement, and other politicians and human rights activists appealed for a stop to the forced deportation of undocumented foreigners in the Supreme Court on November 1.
On October 31, the chair of the nongovernmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Hina Jilani, wrote to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warning that Islamabad’s move to expel Afghans could “trigger a humanitarian crisis.”
Human Rights Watch slammed Islamabad’s deadline, saying it has resulted in significant threats against and abuse of Afghans living in the country.
Since returning to power, the hard-line Islamist Taliban has banned women and teenage girls from education in Afghanistan. It has also banned them from employment in most sectors and discouraged them from leaving their homes.