U.S. urges Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, to embrace Afghan refugees

The United States issued a “strong” encouragement to Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, including Pakistan, to open their doors to Afghans seeking refuge and uphold their obligations regarding the treatment of refugees, as stated by the U.S. State Department on Thursday.

Pakistan has imposed a November 1 deadline for the departure of all illegal immigrants, which includes hundreds of thousands of Afghans. Those who fail to comply could face forced expulsion.

According to Islamabad, approximately 1.73 million Afghans in Pakistan lack legal documentation. The Pakistani government has alleged that Afghan nationals were responsible for more than a dozen suicide bombings this year.

Since the Soviet invasion of Kabul in 1979, Pakistan has hosted the largest population of Afghan refugees. Islamabad claims that the total number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan stands at 4.4 million.

Over 20,000 Afghan individuals, who fled the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, are currently in Pakistan, awaiting the processing of their applications for U.S. Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) or resettlement in the United States as refugees.

“I would say that we urge all states including Pakistan to uphold their respective obligations in treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and to respect the principle of non refoulement. We strongly encourage Afghanistan’s neighbors including Pakistan to allow Afghans seeking international protection and to coordinate with international humanitarian organizations,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Pakistan has stated that the deportation process will be conducted in an orderly manner and in phases, with individuals having criminal records potentially being the first to be repatriated.

Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership has openly criticized Pakistan’s threat to expel Afghan migrants as “unacceptable.”

Over the past few years, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have deteriorated, primarily due to allegations that Islamist groups fighting against the Pakistani state operate from Afghan territory. The Taliban have consistently denied these claims.

A coalition of former top U.S. officials and resettlement organizations has called upon Pakistan to exempt thousands of Afghan applicants for special U.S. visas and refugee relocation to the United States from deportation to Afghanistan.