Pakistan shows extreme cruelty towards Afghan refugees


Since its emergence as a Islamic land that only gives values to Muslims and considers non-Muslims, including Hindus, Christians and others – Pakistan has never been actually a nation. Instead, it has been a failed state and a terrorist launchpads. Now Pakistan has shown another nasty side of its face by imposing hundreds of dollars in exit fees for every Afghan refugee who fled the persecution by the Taliban. Such inhuman act of Pakistan has been condemned as shocking and frustrating by western diplomats and the United Nations, although it is well-anticipated – such condemnations may not result any punitive measures on Pakistan as it has always been enjoying indemnity particularly because of Islamabad’s decades-old romance with Washington.

According to media reports, Pakistani caretaker regime is forcing Afghan refugees to pay charges about US$830 (£660) for each person prior to leaving Pakistan. It comes after Pakistan announced a crackdown on undocumented foreigners and declared November 1, 2023 was the deadline for about 2 million unregistered Afghans to leave the country.

It may be mentioned here that Pakistan began mass deportation of undocumented Afghans following November 1 deadline. Thousands of Afghans without the correct documents or with expired visas have been in Pakistan since the fall of Kabul in August 2021 waiting to restart their lives in countries in the west. Most of them worked with western governments and organizations and are eligible to be resettled on humanitarian grounds.

The US government plans to resettle almost 25,000 Afghans in the country. The UK has said it will resettle 20,000 Afghans. Meanwhile, according to sources, thousands of citizens are attempting to avail this opportunity by falsely proclaiming themselves as Afghan refugees. In some cases, well-organized human trafficking rackets backed by Pakistani ruling elites and military establishments are handling such illegal practices.

Meanwhile, according to The Guardian, five senior western diplomats in Pakistan told the newspaper the exit permit fee in Pakistan was unprecedented internationally and had come as a shock. “I know it is very tough economically for Pakistan but really, to try to make money off refugees is really unattractive”, said one diplomat.

“The issue has also been raised by the two UN agencies in the lead on this mess, the [UN refugee agency] UNHCR and [International Organization of Migration] IOM”, the diplomat added. “It has also been raised in capitals and headquarters. I suspect everyone has also passed the message to their [Pakistani contacts]”.

Another diplomat said western officials had been told of the move at a briefing by the interior and foreign ministries. When concerns were raised about the fee, officials were told the initial decision was to charge US$10,000 for each person but that had been lowered to US$830.

“It is very bizarre and I personally find it very frustrating. If Pakistan wants to facilitate the process of the settlement of refugees in the west then they should not make it more complicated with such absurd conditions,” the diplomat said. “What is the justification for this exit permit fee? To make a lot of money?”

The exit permit must be paid via credit card, which many Afghan refugees have no access to. Another diplomat said: “This makes it worse as it should be paid by refugees and most of them don’t have credit cards. I think we need a cooperative approach of working together to help the refugees and we expect Pakistan would help”.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, said there was no plan to change the policy. “These individuals have been here for the last two years and they are not refugees but immigrants with overstay in their visas and lack of documents. But we expect the concerned countries would expedite the visa and approval process so that they can leave for their destination as early as possible”, she said.

Baloch said more information was needed to process the refugees’ resettlement because some western countries had been giving them names without further details. But a western diplomat said: “We are trying to provide information the Pakistani government is asking for, but we have legal restrictions as to how much information we can provide as well”.

Babar Baloch, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, said: “The UNHCR is working with the government of Pakistan to resolve the issue of exit fines and overstay visa fees for refugees in the resettlement program. The UNHCR advocates with the authorities for the exemption of refugees from these requirements”.

He said the UN understood that the situation could cause anxiety among those who had fled to Pakistan but were eager to leave the country and restart their lives. “Resettlement is part of a global solidarity and lifesaving mechanism for some of the most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers”.


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