KARACHI: The US Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs announced on Friday it had established an “emergency hotline” for Afghan nationals waiting for American visas amid a deportation drive initiated by Pakistani authorities to send unregistered migrants back to their respective countries.
The initiative is specifically designed for Afghans who are in the process of US immigration and resettlement, offering support during a period of heightened vulnerability. Many of these individuals had collaborated with US-led forces in Afghanistan before their August 2020 withdrawal from Kabul and subsequently fled to Pakistan, fearing reprisals from the Taliban who had swept back to power.
“The Dept of State has launched an emergency hotline for Afghans facing deportation or detainment in Pakistan who are in a US immigration and resettlement pathway,” the American authorities announced in a social media post, adding that the number was “available Mon-Sat from 8 AM to midnight Islamabad time.”
Pakistan’s decision last month to expel ‘illegal migrants,’ predominantly Afghans, followed a string of extremist attacks and suicide bombings, leading to accusations against Kabul of harboring anti-Pakistan militants.
This led to the Pakistani government’s Nov. 1 deadline, urging undocumented foreigners to voluntarily leave and resulting in the establishment of “holding centers” for rounding up Afghan families for deportation.
Amid these expulsions, registered Afghan refugees also reported instances of harassment.
The US is not the only country working to resettle Afghans who aided their efforts in Afghanistan. The UK also arranged special flights with the Pakistani aviation agency to relocate Afghans who assisted British forces.
While the US has taken more time in facilitating the relocation of its Afghan allies, its officials have urged Pakistan not to repatriate these individuals due to potential dangers in Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar told Arab News that Afghan applicants for special visas to the US and other Western nations had the right to remain in Pakistan for a “limited time.”
He confirmed that Islamabad was coordinating with Afghan groups to reach an “agreement” aimed at safeguarding those at risk of persecution in their homeland.