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Pakistan deports 500,000 illegal immigrants in just three months

Pakistan has repatriated more than 500,000 illegal immigrants as part of a massive deportation drive that began in November.

The country’s interior ministry released the updated numbers earlier this month, and revealed a further 110,064 had left voluntarily.

“Around 1.7 million illegal aliens are unlawfully living in the country, the majority of whom are Afghans,” the ministry said in a written reply to the senate.

“They are living without any legal documentation necessary for staying in the country. 541,210 people have been sent back after the cabinet’s approval of the deportation plan for illegal residents.”

The ministry said further efforts were being made to repatriate the remaining 1.15 million people still living in Pakistan unlawfully.

Pakistan in October gave all illegal immigrants an ultimatum to leave the country by the 31st of that month or be jailed or deported.

After the deadline the government began a mass deportation drive, citing security issues and the economic burden of housing 4.4 million Afghan refugees.

Acting interior minister, Sarfraz Bugti, said in November: “There will be no compromise against illegal refugees. We have the data on who are staying illegally in Pakistan. We are going door to door, and we have done geofencing. We will detain and deport them.”

Mr Bugti had earlier warned 14 out of 24 suicide bombings the the first 9 months of 2023 had been carried out by Afghans during a surge in violence in two provinces bordering Afghanistan.

Critics of the deportation drive claim some Afghans awaiting resettlement in the US have been caught up in the drive, and allege authorities routinely ignore letters of protection issued by the US Embassy, Asia News Network reported. 25,000 such letters have been sent.

Western NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on Islamabad to stop the deportation drive, and called on the US, the UK, Germany and Canada to expedite resettlement for Afghans forced to leave Pakistan.

Germany’s right-wing AfD party, which is soaring in the polls and leading in three states, recently hosted a meeting where a similar “remigration” proposal to deport millions of immigrants and refugees was discussed.

Donald Trump has vowed to start the “largest deportation operation in American history” if re-elected later this year.

A record number of 3,200,000 illegal immigrant encounters were reported by the US government in 2023.

The number of illegal immigrants in the US has roughly doubled under Joe Biden to 20.2 million.

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