11/25/2023, 15.27
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Migrants: Quetta-Chaman Highway connecting Pakistan to Afghanistan blocked

People and goods have not moved between the two countries for five days. One of the reasons for the blockade is Pakistan's US$ 830 exit fee for Afghans who intend to return home.

Quetta-Chaman (AsiaNews) – Trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan across the Chaman border crossing was blocked today for the fifth consecutive day, as demonstrators continue a sit-in blocking the highway leading to Kandahar in protest against Pakistan’s new visa regime.

Thousands of traders and workers from different political parties and members of civil society groups joined the protest on the Quetta-Chaman highway a month after the government's decision to regularise the crossing between the two countries through a one-document regime.

The Apex National Committee took the decision, and Pakistan has been enforcing the new border crossing policy since 1 November. Border authorities refuse access to anyone without a passport and a valid visa from both sides.

The traders' alliance has called on Pakistan’s federal government to drop the single document regime and allow at least residents in Chaman and the Afghan district of Spin-Boldak to continue crossing the border using their country’s identity cards.

Attempts by the authorities, including the Chaman administration, have failed to achieve any progress and the highway continues to be blocked.

One of the reasons for Pakistan's tightening of border controls is its decision to charge undocumented Afghans a US$ 830 exit fee.

In October, Pakistan announced that it would deport 1.7 million undocumented foreigners if they did not leave the country on their own by 1 November. Most are Afghans, including hundreds of thousands of people who fled Afghanistan when the Taliban regained power in 2021.

According to Amnesty International, many Afghans who arrived in Pakistan when Kabul fell to the Taliban have faced delays in obtaining refugee status documentation.

Pakistan has not ratified the Refugee Convention and is under no obligation to recognise any of the Afghans living within its borders as refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that it was trying to "resolve the issue",

In fact, “The Government and people of Pakistan have a commendable, decades-long history of providing asylum and protection to Afghan refugees, this needs to continue,” the UN agency said.

In expressing Pakistan’s response, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "Pakistani laws, like the immigration laws in other countries including the United Kingdom, have fines and punishments for individuals who overstay their visas or are in violation of immigration laws.”

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