IOM urges immediate halt to Pakistan’s deportation of Afghan migrants

Photo: IOM

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reiterated its call for Pakistan to “immediately” suspend the forcible return of Afghan nationals, both in the short and long term.

According to the IOM, in the past two months, nearly 375,000 Afghans have departed Pakistan, mainly through the Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings. This surge follows Pakistan’s “Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan,” which set a November 1 deadline for the “voluntary return” of all undocumented Afghans in Pakistan to their home country.

The number of daily border crossings has skyrocketed from 200 to 17,000 since the implementation of the plan, creating a dire situation for those affected. IOM Afghanistan Chief of Mission Maria Moita expressed concern, stating, “Their situation is desperate; most people told us they were forced to leave the country and leave belongings and savings behind.”

Arriving in Afghanistan, these individuals face extreme vulnerability, necessitating immediate support at the border and long-term assistance in their return areas. The IOM emphasizes the urgent need for funds to address this significant humanitarian crisis, with critical aid covering shelter, water, sanitation, essential household items, healthcare, protection, nutrition services, and cash for basic needs, transportation, and food being provided by the IOM-led border consortium.

One affected individual, Aliya, a 32-year-old mother of two, shared her harrowing experience, stating, “I was so panicked, those five nights I spent with my daughters on the way to Kandahar totally destroyed me. We were taken care of at the border, but there are so many people here at the same time; it’s very difficult.”

The escalating number of forced returns has led to the establishment of larger reception centers, where returning Afghans await assistance before proceeding to their intended areas of return. The border consortium has launched an initial appeal to support these operations, recognizing the need for a revision and additional resources due to the surge in arrivals and the heightened vulnerability of those returning.

Highlighting the exceptional difficulties faced by women and girls in Afghanistan, the IOM underscores the anticipated increase in needs as winter approaches. The organization calls on the international community to bolster support at a time when funding for the Afghan population is rapidly declining.

Recent figures indicate that nearly 3,000 undocumented Afghan migrants were sent back to Afghanistan on Tuesday, Nov. 21, slightly higher than the figures reported on Nov. 20 and Nov. 19.