As the deadline for the ‘voluntary repatriation’ of Afghan refugees ends today, the government has taken steps to house undocumented immigrants before deporting them to their home country. ‘Holding centres’ have been established in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Attock to facilitate this process.
Designated ‘Holding Centres’ for Afghan Refugees Facing Repatriation Deadline
In Rawalpindi, Khyaban-i-Sir Syed’s Government Shehbaz Sharif Associate College will serve as a ‘holding centre.’ In Islamabad, a similar facility has been established in the I-14 sector. Two camps have been set up in Attock, located at Government College of Technology Attock and Degree College Hazro. Islamabad police officials have created separate teams to detain undocumented immigrants, who will then be moved to these camps.
Processing and Verification
Upon arrival at these holding camps, an officer will issue a receipt containing the details of the detained immigrants. These individuals will be asked to produce identity documents, which will be verified through Nadra (National Database and Registration Authority). If documents are found to be forged, the individuals will be retained at the camps.
Officials also stated that belongings of illegal immigrants would be confiscated at the time of arrest, with records of these belongings being maintained at the police station.
Deportation Process for Afghan Refugees Facing Repatriation Deadline
The officer in charge at the holding camp will maintain records of the transfer of the illegal immigrants from the camp to the border. The police teams will provide security cover for the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team responsible for transporting the immigrants to the Pak-Afghan border. The mobile phones of the immigrants will also be confiscated during the deportation process.
The deportation will occur on Wednesday and Thursday, with the resting point of the caravan being decided by the in-charge of the FIA team in consultation with the police team’s supervisor.
Policy and Legal Action
Pakistan has welcomed refugees on humanitarian grounds, given that the country is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 1951. Authorities indicated that action would also be taken against immigrants with registration cards, but a policy in this regard is still awaited.
Refugees with proper registration are also subject to certain restrictions, such as not being able to buy property and being required to stay in official refugee camps.
The capital police established a control room at Safe City Islamabad to monitor the arrest of illegal immigrants. They have also started making announcements through mosque loudspeakers, urging illegal immigrants to return to their native country. Legal action is warned against those who fail to leave.
Meanwhile, the Capital Development Authority conducted an operation in Sector I-12 and demolished over 800 houses belonging to illegal immigrants.
Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner Dr. Hassan Waqar Cheema stated that the caretaker Punjab government had initially directed the establishment of centers in all tehsils but later opted for a centralized center for illegal foreigners.
In Rawalpindi district, there are 55,000 Afghan nationals, with 12,000 identified as ‘illegal foreigners.’ Approximately 4,000 Afghan nationals have no legal documents, while some have expired visas. They will be shifted to the camp and then deported to the Afghan border.
A Nadra center has been established at the camp to verify foreigners’ data through a biometric system before their repatriation. Data will be saved for future references.
Preparations in Attock
In Attock, arrangements have been made to accommodate over 400 Afghan refugees in the Government College of Technology, with 200 rooms provided.
The authorities have taken significant steps to facilitate the repatriation process of undocumented Afghan immigrants, ensuring proper processing and verification to maintain a secure and orderly transition.