Torkham, Pakistan, Oct 31 (EFE).- Chaotic scenes were unfolding at Pakistan’s main border crossings with Afghanistan, ahead of the deadline for all undocumented migrants to leave the country by midnight Tuesday.
Hundreds of trucks loaded with thousands of Afghan migrants were forming long queues as they waited to be processed by border authorities.
Pakistan’s Oct. 3 ultimatum to undocumented foreigners, including 1.7 million Afghans, to leave the country and avoid being forcibly expelled, comes to an end at midnight.
The massive crowds have led to long waits at the main border points between Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the key Torkham crossing, while Afghan authorities register their details before allowing them to enter the country.
“Our parents took us out of Afghanistan 40 years ago on their shoulders, now we carry them back in wheelchairs,” Haider Zaman told Efe, wondering why Pakistan could not afford to take in an elderly woman in her 80s like his mother.
Similar complaints against the Pakistani government were heard among most of the migrants, who complained that Pakistani authorities were not prepared to handle a mass repatriation like the one they had been forced to make with barely a month to spare.
Another migrant, Rashid Khan, told Efe that he was detained with his family two days ago about three kilometers from the border and had not yet received permission to move on, while protesting the much-higher-than-usual price that carriers charged them to take them to the border.
“They charged us 200,000 Pakistani rupees (about $711) from Peshawar to Jalalabad, Afghanistan,” Khan said.
The lack of food and shelter at the border – despite the advance knowledge that huge numbers of migrants would be making the crossing – has presented an opportunity for local villagers to turn a profit by setting up makeshift tents.
“This is a remote mountainous area. Of course we are charging more, where else will they go,” said one of the shopkeepers, Irshad Khan.
Despite the lack of shelters, authorities announced that they will set up an immigration center that will start operating from Wednesday, and where they plan to take migrants who have not left the country by midnight, before expelling them definitively.
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday slammed the Pakistani government for using “threats, abuses and detentions” to force undocumented Afghans to return to their homeland.
“Broad calls by Pakistani officials for mass deportation have instigated increased police abuse against Afghans, including harassment, assault, and arbitrary detention,” said HRW, pointing out that many are waiting for an asylum application to move to other countries.
“The situation in Afghanistan remains dangerous for many who fled, and deportation will expose them to significant security risks, including threats to their lives and well-being,” Fereshta Abbasi, Afghanistan researcher at HRW, said. EFE