Pakistan suspends deportation of Afghan migrants on ‘humanitarian grounds’

Afghan returnees in Afghanistan. Photo: WFP

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has temporarily suspended the deportation of undocumented Afghan migrants following discussions with Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Grandi concluded his three-day visit on Tuesday, urging for “a bolstering of efforts towards longer-term solutions” for Afghans living in Pakistan.

In a statement after the visit, the UNHCR expressed appreciation for the suspension of the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan” and sought assurances that it would remain on hold.

Quoting a senior Pakistani official, VOA reported that the deportations had been halted. However, the official did not specify the duration of the suspension.

“Our message to Grandi was that the international community should fulfill its responsibility for the upkeep and repatriation of Afghan refugees. It’s a shared responsibility and shouldn’t be left to Pakistan to lift the entire burden,” the official stated as quoted by VOA.

The suspension of deportations was made on “humanitarian grounds,” due to the deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan, according to Pakistani and U.N. officials.

Pakistan started expelling undocumented Afghan immigrants last November. Figures by IOM show that nearly 640,000 Afghans were deported by Pakistan during this period. Nearly 1,000 Afghan migrants were deported on Monday, July 8, alone, according to Taliban-run refugees ministry.

During his visit, Grandi met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other senior officials, focusing on the fate of approximately three million Afghans in Pakistan.

Of these, about 1.3 million are officially registered refugees, nearly 900,000 hold Afghan citizenship cards, and the remainder are undocumented or have expired visas while awaiting asylum in third countries after fleeing the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Grandi’s visit underscores the ongoing challenges faced by Afghan refugees and the urgent need for international cooperation in addressing their plight.

The suspension of deportations offers a temporary reprieve but highlights the necessity for a comprehensive, long-term solution.

After the fall of the previous government in Afghanistan in August 2021, over 600,000 Afghans fled to Pakistan, many of them over the fear of risks they faced from the Taliban.