Politics

Pakistan extends deadline for Afghan refugees in transit

Islamabad, Dec. 14 (EFE).- Pakistan has extended the deadline for the repatriation of Afghan nationals who are awaiting relocation to Western countries under their respective resettlement plan, an interior ministry official said Thursday.

The Pakistani government has extended the Dec. 31 deadline for those looking to relocate to third countries to Feb. 29 next year.

“The deadline for those Afghans who are awaiting their relocation to a third country has been extended from Dec. 31 to Feb. 29 next year,” interior ministry spokesperson Qadir Yar Tiwan told EFE on Thursday.

The official said that during the given time those Afghans have been asked to either obtain legal documents to live in the country or they get repatriated to a third country.

The decision was taken on Wednesday during a meeting of the caretaker cabinet with Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq in the chair.

There are over four million Afghan refugees in Pakistan out of whom around 1.7 have no legal documents to stay in the country.

As per government data, more than 600,000 Afghans fled their country to Pakistan following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Most of them were working for US-led foreign forces and currently await relocation to the respective countries they had worked for during the war from 2001 to 2021.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said that Afghan nationals who do not have any legal documents and want to relocate to a third country would be fined $400 for overstaying in Pakistan during this period, bringing down the penalty by half.

“The interim government has cut the processing fee for the Afghans to $400 from $800,” the ministry informed.

After the deadline, they would be fined at the rate of $100 per month for a maximum of eight months.

This is the first time the government has acknowledged it was charging money from the Afghans in transit, a decision widely criticized following several earlier media disclosures on the matter.

The minister said the government wanted those Afghans to relocate to another country as soon as possible or obtain the legal documents for staying in Pakistan.

Solangi also revealed that about 450,000 undocumented Afghan migrants had gone back to Afghanistan since the government issued an ultimatum in early October for them to leave the country.

As per government data, around 2,000 Afghans are being repatriated on a daily basis to Afghanistan through its western border, which includes those going voluntarily as well as those deported by the authorities following a brief detention. EFE

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