Afghans exodus from Pakistan: A new humanitarian crisis?

Afghans exodus from Pakistan: A new humanitarian crisis?
Photo Source: Washington Post [Samiullah Popal/EPA-EFE]


Eleni Patlaka

Pakistan Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence


The government of Pakistan decided to forcibly repatriate undocumented Afghans residing in the country [1]. Previously, there had been incidents of anti-Afghan rhetoric, extortion and abuse by police authorities towards Afghan migrants [2]. According to Sindh's caretaker Minister for Home, Haris Nawaz, the fate of the Afghans will be followed by other migrants residing in the country illegally, i.e., Indians. In addition, a crackdown will be launched on those who did not leave the country voluntarily and those who harbour illegal migrants will face legal consequences [3]. It's estimated that there are around 1.7 million people in the country who are threatened by the repatriation policy, with the number set to rise following the Government's new decisions [1].

On November 5, 5 days after the deadline for their return to Afghanistan, the Afghan government decided to close the Torkham border prematurely. More than 250 migrants, who had completed the repatriation process and were waiting outside the checkpoint gate, were stranded for hours on the border in unsafe conditions, with no access to either side. By decision of the Pakistani government, they were transferred at midnight to the Peshawar holding area. The next day, the border was opened and 9,000 undocumented migrants were able to leave the country [2].

The Pakistani policy has alarmed Pakistani organisations, as well as the UN, who are talking about a new humanitarian crisis. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) denounces the practice, which amounts to forced repatriation, which isn’t in accordance with international law. The practice endangers the lives of vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly and women who had fled Afghanistan because they were in danger [3]. 

Sources and further reading:

[1] Tharoor, I. (2023). Analysis | Pakistan carries out a mass expulsion. Washington Post. [online] 6 Nov. Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2023].

[2] Farooq, U. (2023). ‘Premature’ border closure leaves immigrants under open sky. [online] DAWN.COM. Available at:  [Accessed 7 Nov. 2023].

[3] Pakistan today, (2023). Epaper_23-11-07 LHR. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 7 Nov. 2023].