Pakistan launches crackdown on illegal immigration, echoes US debate amid terrorism concerns

The Pakistani government has launched a massive crackdown on illegal immigration affecting mainly Afghan nationals, some of whom fled their country during the Taliban’s recapture of Afghanistan. The administration cites terror concerns that echo the ongoing debate in the US about the possible link between illegal immigration and violence.

Islamabad said the crackdown on illegal immigrants began Wednesday after a Nov. 1 deadline for them to leave the country. The crackdown mainly affects Afghans, who make up the majority of foreigners in the country.

Authorities have cited crimes including smuggling and militant attacks such as suicide bombings as justification for the deportation push. Reuters reported about it government estimates that Afghan nationals were involved in 14 of the 24 suicide bombings this year.

The country’s government said all illegal immigrants should have left by Nov. 1 or face arrest and has begun deporting and detaining illegal immigrants.


Police arrest immigrants in Pakistan

Police officers arrest undocumented immigrants during a search operation for illegal immigrants in a neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Amid the push, there are estimates that between 8,000 and 10,000 Afghans are leaving for Afghanistan each day, an increase from about 300 a day. Reuters reported that more than 140,000 people left voluntarily.

Authorities have launched raids across the country to check for documents, including destroying mudbrick houses on the outskirts of the capital.

Human Rights Watch has said many of those targeted for deportation are awaiting resettlement in other countries, including the United States. He has warned of threats and abuses by Pakistani officials against migrants.


His office United Nations The High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a press release that it was “extremely concerned” by Pakistan’s expulsion announcement.

There have been multiple movements of Afghans in Pakistan, including during the Soviet invasion in the 1970s and 1980s and amid the US withdrawal in 2021, which also led to more than 70,000 Afghans being released to the US

Police investigation in Pakistan

Police officers leave after conducting an operation to search for illegal immigrants in a neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Pakistan’s justification of terrorism concerns is in some ways similar to the terrorism concerns expressed by Republicans and immigration hawks in the US. They have highlighted hundreds of thousands of border escapes as well as higher numbers of terrorist watch-list encounters between ports of entry.

Meanwhile, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) memo warned that militants linked to Hamas, Hezbollah and other groups could attempt to enter the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security The 2024 threat assessment warned that agents have encountered a growing number on the watch list and warned that “terrorists and criminals may take advantage of the increased flow and increasingly complex security environment to enter the United States.”

illegal immigrants

Illegal immigrants gather next to the US-Mexico border fence in El Paso, Texas, December 22, 2022. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Some lawmakers also expressed reservations about vetting Afghan parolees in the U.S.

Since then, the Biden administration has extended and re-designated Afghanistan as a temporary protected status, which protects citizens already in the US from deportation and allows them to apply for work permits due to conditions in their home country.

White House spokesman John Kirby was asked at a White House press conference on Thursday about Pakistan’s initiative to deport Afghans.


“We will let Pakistan talk about its policies in relation to refugees and asylum seekers,” he said. “Obviously, we want to see all nations doing what they can to help refugees and asylum seekers, and certainly (that) includes our Pakistani friends in relation to the Afghans who are trying to leave.”

Other Democrats were more critical of the deportations

“This is a direct violation of the basic right to asylum and a death sentence for many Afghans who will be targeted by the Taliban. Pakistan must change course,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said on X, formerly Twitter. .

Greg Wehner of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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