The caretaker government in Pakistan has initiated a sweeping deportation drive, forcibly repatriating numerous Afghans awaiting resettlement in the United States. Advocacy groups and Afghan applicants allege that despite possessing US embassy letters of protection, authorities have overlooked their claims, creating a challenging situation for these individuals. Compounded by the closure of the US embassy in Kabul, human rights restrictions, and ongoing crises in Afghanistan, the plight of these Afghans underscores the complex web they find themselves entangled in.
The caretaker government of Pakistan commenced the deportation drive on November 1, expelling over a million undocumented foreigners, predominantly Afghans. The move comes amid accusations that Kabul shelters banned militant groups, an allegation vehemently denied by the ruling Taliban. Despite over 450,000 Afghans having returned home, according to the United Nations, many now find themselves grappling with difficult winter conditions near the border.
The situation takes a dire turn for at least 130 Afghans who were in the process of securing US special immigration visas or refugee resettlement. Shawn VanDiver, President of Afghan Evac, the primary coalition aiding such efforts, cites data from coalition members and details provided to the US government by its Islamabad embassy. The group alleges that these individuals, despite possessing protection letters from the US embassy, have been deported. More than 230 such Afghans have been arrested by local authorities, with about 80 subsequently released, adding another layer of complexity to their plight.
Addressing the issue, a senior US State Department official acknowledges the lack of a formal tracking mechanism for such cases. However, they assure that the number of Afghans deported while awaiting US resettlement is relatively small. Dawn.com has sought comments from the foreign and interior ministries on this matter.
The deportation drive began as the clock ticked down to November 1, with the US embassy emailing protection letters to around 25,000 Afghans. These letters were meant to serve as proof to Pakistani authorities that the individuals were in the process of resettlement in the United States. However, reports suggest that local authorities have often ignored these letters, complicating the situation for those affected.
The article touches upon personal accounts, bringing forth the human side of this crisis. One applicant for refugee status shares his struggle, highlighting the financial constraints that prevented visa renewal. The emotional toll of deportation is palpable as families face eviction, uncertainty, and the daunting prospect of returning to a homeland fraught with challenges.
While the Taliban claims a general amnesty for former adversaries, the fear among returning Afghans persists. Many dread the Taliban’s restrictions on women and confront a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by foreign aid cuts and severed ties to global banking.
As the caretaker government cites economic and security crises for its actions, international scrutiny intensifies. The US officials’ recent visit to Islamabad underscores the gravity of the situation. The ongoing talks may determine the fate of these displaced Afghans caught in the crossfire of geopolitical complexities.