An official said on Friday that Pakistan opened more centers at a border crossing with Afghanistan to speed the return of tens of thousands of unregistered Afghan citizens, despite requests from refugee and rights groups to reconsider the expulsion plans.
The number of facilities at the northwestern border crossing of Torkham, where the majority of people leave, has been tripled to accommodate the growing number of returnees, according to Abdul Nasir Khan, deputy commissioner for Khyber district, where the crossing is located.
“Everything is normal now as the returnees no longer needed to wait in queues for hours,” he said about the situation at the crossing, where thousands of Afghans had thronged after the deadline expired on Wednesday.
He said 19,744 Afghans had crossed the border on Thursday, adding a total of 147,949 such foreigners had so far crossed into Afghanistan since Sept. 17.
More than 35,000 undocumented Afghans have left through another southwestern Pakistani border crossing at Chaman.
Pakistani authorities had already started rounding up undocumented foreigners, the majority of them Afghans, hours before the deadline. More than a million Afghans could have to leave or face arrest and forcible expulsion as a result of the ultimatum delivered by the Pakistan government a month ago.
Scrambling to cope with the sudden influx, the Taliban-run administration in Afghanistan has set up temporary transit camps where food and medical assistance would be provided.
The Pakistani government has brushed off calls from the United Nations, rights groups and Western embassies to reconsider its expulsion plan, saying Afghans had been involved in Islamist militant attacks and in crimes that undermined the security of the country.
Kabul denies the accusations, saying Pakistani security is a domestic problem, and has called on Islamabad to reconsider its decision.
Of the more than 4 million Afghans living in Pakistan, the government estimates 1.7 million are undocumented.
Many fled during the decades of armed conflict that Afghanistan suffered since the late 1970s, while the Islamist Taliban’s takeover after the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces in 2021 led to another exodus.