DILI, STLNEWS.co – Thousands of Afghans living in Pakistan raced to the border on Tuesday ahead of a midnight deadline for undocumented foreigners to leave the country.
Pakistan says 1.7 million such people must leave by 1 November or face arrest and deportation. Most are Afghans.
Many refugees are terrified, having fled Afghanistan after the Taliban retook control in 2021. Others have been in Pakistan for decades.
“Where will we go if we are forced to leave Pakistan?” asked one young woman.
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Sadia, who has been studying in Peshawar in north-west Pakistan, said she escaped Afghanistan two years ago for a chance at getting an education, after the Taliban government barred girls and women from school under its harsh version of Islamic law.
“I am studying here in Pakistan and I wish to continue my education here. If we are forced to leave, I will not be able to continue my study in Afghanistan. My parents, my sister and brother are scared about the future,” she told BBC Urdu.
Tensions between the countries soared after a spike in cross-border attacks, which Islamabad blames on Afghanistan-based militants.
Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, who deny providing sanctuary for militants targeting Pakistan, have called the move to deport undocumented Afghans “unacceptable”.
Throngs of refugees rushed to the border with Afghanistan on Tuesday on trucks overflowing with clothes and furniture.
Close to 200,000 Afghans have returned home as of Monday, Pakistan said. Reports said 20,000 journeyed to the border on Tuesday as time to leave voluntarily ran out.
Eight in 10 who left said they according to a UN report.
Many of these refugees, who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban retook control of the government, fear that their dreams and livelihoods will be crushed – yet again.
But Pakistan, which has been wrestling with an economic crisis in recent years, is short of patience. In July, the Pakistani rupee saw its sharpest drop against the dollar since October 1998.