More than 400,000 Afghans return from Pakistan following crackdown on migrants

November 22, 2023 | by b1og.net


Imagine leaving your home, your community, and everything familiar to you. That’s exactly what over 400,000 Afghans have had to do as they return from Pakistan following a crackdown on migrants. Pakistani officials have been enforcing a nationwide crackdown on illegal foreigners, demanding that anyone without proper documentation leave the country. As a result, thousands of Afghans have been forced to make the journey back to their homeland. This article highlights the challenges faced by these returning individuals and the ongoing tension between the two countries.

More than 400,000 Afghans return from Pakistan following crackdown on migrants

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Crackdown on Migrants in Pakistan Leads to Return of Afghans

Background on the crackdown

In recent months, Pakistan has implemented a crackdown on illegal foreigners residing in the country. This action was taken to address concerns about security and the increasing number of undocumented migrants. The government announced that anyone without proper documentation would need to leave the country by October 31 or face potential arrest. The crackdown has primarily targeted Afghan nationals, who make up a significant portion of the foreign population in Pakistan.


Number of Afghans returning

According to Pakistani authorities, more than 400,000 Afghans have returned to their home country in response to the crackdown. This large-scale return has been a direct result of the strict enforcement measures implemented by the government. The majority of these individuals have utilized the border crossings of Torkham and Spin Boldak to make their way back to Afghanistan.

Border crossings used by the returnees

The border crossings of Torkham and Spin Boldak have been the primary routes used by Afghan returnees to enter Afghanistan. These crossings have seen a significant increase in activity since the crackdown began. Afghan nationals who had been residing in Pakistan without proper documentation are now choosing to leave the country voluntarily to avoid any legal repercussions. The influx of returnees at these border crossings has presented logistical challenges for both Pakistani and Afghan authorities.

Exemptions for Registered Afghan Refugees

Number of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan

While the crackdown targets undocumented migrants, it is important to note that there are approximately 1.4 million Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan. These individuals have been granted legal status and are not affected by the enforcement measures. They are allowed to continue residing in Pakistan without fear of arrest or deportation.

Clarification on who the crackdown targets

The crackdown specifically targets individuals who do not possess proper documentation to reside in Pakistan. It is not aimed at registered Afghan refugees or individuals with valid visas or residency permits. The government’s primary focus is on addressing the issue of illegal migration and ensuring the security of the country. The intention is not to disrupt the lives of Afghan refugees who have been granted legal status.

History of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

Afghan refugee influx during the Soviet occupation

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, millions of Afghans fled their home country and sought refuge in neighboring Pakistan. Pakistan provided shelter and support to these individuals, who were escaping conflict and seeking safety. This influx of Afghan refugees marked the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between the two countries.

Increase in numbers after the Taliban takeover

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, there was a significant increase in the number of Afghan refugees seeking shelter in Pakistan. The deteriorating security situation and uncertainty prompted many Afghans to flee their homeland once again. Pakistan continued to welcome and accommodate these individuals, providing them with support and assistance until the recent crackdown on illegal migrants.


Changes in Border Crossing Policies

Introduction of visa requirements for residents of Chaman

In an effort to enhance border security, Pakistan introduced new visa requirements for residents of Chaman, a southwestern border town. Previously, individuals from Chaman had special permits to cross between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, these permits have now been replaced with the necessity of obtaining visas. This change has disrupted the lives of many residents who relied on the permits for business purposes or to visit relatives in the Afghan border city of Spin Boldak.

Protests and disruptions over new border policies

The introduction of visa requirements for residents of Chaman has led to widespread protests and disruptions. Hundreds of individuals briefly blocked a key road leading to the Chaman border, causing traffic disruptions and hindering the repatriation efforts of Afghan returnees. The residents of Chaman are urging the Pakistani government to reconsider the new policies and allow them to continue using the special permits that were previously issued.

Crackdown Operations and Criticism

Door-to-door checks for migrants’ documentation

Since November 1, Pakistani authorities have been conducting door-to-door checks to verify the documentation of migrants residing in the country. While the crackdown targets all foreigners without proper documentation, the majority of those affected are Afghan nationals. The purpose of these checks is to identify individuals who have violated immigration laws and enforce the government’s deportation orders.

Criticism from human rights groups

The crackdown on migrants in Pakistan has drawn criticism from both international and domestic human rights groups. These organizations argue that the enforcement measures disproportionately impact vulnerable individuals, including Afghan refugees who may face difficulties in obtaining proper documentation. Critics also argue that the abrupt nature of the crackdown and the potential for forced returns can worsen the already dire situation in Afghanistan.

Assistance provided by the Taliban-led administration

The Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan has stated that it is providing shelter and food to Afghan returnees. Recognizing the challenges faced by these individuals upon their return, the administration aims to ease their reintegration into Afghan society. The provision of basic necessities demonstrates the administration’s commitment to supporting Afghan nationals affected by the crackdown and alleviating their immediate humanitarian needs.

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World Health Organization’s Warning

Expected number of Afghan returnees despite cold weather

Despite the onset of cold weather, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that approximately 1.3 million Afghans are expected to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan. This significant number of returnees poses various challenges, including the provision of adequate healthcare and addressing the potential humanitarian crisis that may arise.

Impact on health and humanitarian situation

The return of such a large number of individuals can strain existing healthcare infrastructure and resources in Afghanistan. The WHO has raised concerns about the ability of Afghan authorities to provide necessary healthcare services to these new returnees. Additionally, addressing the immediate and long-term humanitarian needs of the returnees, including access to food, water, shelter, and education, will require significant support from international organizations and the international community.


The crackdown on migrants in Pakistan has resulted in the return of a significant number of Afghans to their home country. While the crackdown primarily targets undocumented migrants, registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan are exempt from these enforcement measures. The history of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, including previous influxes during the Soviet occupation and the Taliban takeover, highlights the complexity of the situation. The changes in border crossing policies and the criticism from human rights groups add to the challenges faced by Afghan nationals. The World Health Organization’s warning regarding the health and humanitarian impact of the expected return of Afghans further emphasizes the need for support and assistance to address the situation effectively. As the situation continues to evolve, cooperation between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and international organizations will be crucial in mitigating the challenges and ensuring the well-being of all affected individuals.

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