Pakistan shuts its doors to Afghan refugees
Islamabad, Sep 1 (EFE).- Pakistan has shut its doors to refugees trying to flee Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country, despite the European Union’s intention of keep migrants in countries in the region.
The mantra repeated by senior officials in Islamabad and the all-powerful military is that no Afghan refugees will enter Pakistani soil.
“Not one person has been granted refugee status till now,” Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said at a press conference this week.
This extremity has also been confirmed to EFE by sources from security forces and border crossings, as well as the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“We are only allowing Afghans with medical visa or Afghans who have been working for international organizations and they requested to help them evacuate,” a security source told EFE at the Torkham border crossing, one of the most important ones between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The source, who asked not to be named, said there are no more Afghan arrivals recorded and that only 1,000 people crossed into Torkham on Tuesday, the usual figure since the imposition of Covid-19 restrictions.
The UNHCR too has indicated a similar situation.
“We don’t see any large scale displacement. We have observed little increase since few days at Chaman (another border crossing),” UNHCR spokesperson in Pakistan, Qaiser Khan Afridi, told EFE.
Afridi added it was possible that more Afghans were obtaining medical visas to enter the country, besides those illegally entering Pakistani soil.
The international evacuation operations by air ended Tuesday following the final departure of the United States forces at midnight.
Given this situation, Pakistan is becoming a strategic point to enter and exit Afghanistan, starting with the arrival of humanitarian aid and the evacuation of foreigners and their Afghan collaborators for whom Islamabad has been issuing 21-day transit visas.
However, there is no place for refugees. “Pakistan does not have the capacity to take more refugees,” stressed Rashid.
Around 1.4 million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan legally, while around another million are undocumented.
Afghans are among the world’s largest and oldest displaced groups and began to seek refuge in Pakistani territory following the Soviet invasion in 1979.
Now faced with another large migratory crisis, Islamabad has refused to allow more refugees from the neighboring country.
This position clashes with the EU, which wants Afghans to remain in countries bordering Afghanistan and thus prevent them from reaching European soil, as was apparent after the extraordinary meeting of interior ministers of the two sides in Brussels on Tuesday.
However, neighboring countries already host the vast majority of Afghan migrants. Pakistan and Iran are together sheltering 90 percent of all Afghan refugees, according to UNHCR data. EFE