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Afghan man in B.C. worries for his family forced to leave Pakistan amid mass deportation

It's been two weeks since Pakistan announced it would carry out mass deportations of Afghans living in the country without legal status, and despite drawing criticism from human rights organizations, Pakistan continues to move forward with its expulsions.

Hundreds of thousands have already left, bringing very little with them, including the family of Surrey resident Sayed Ali Sayel, who have lived in the country as refugees for 30 years.

“They didn’t even get a week's heads up," said Hameed Khan, an immigration reform advocate and translator for Sayel.

"They came at night and told them that in the morning, 'Yeah, you guys will be back in Afghanistan. Deported,’" he said.

Sayel said his family had to leave behind all their belongings.

“Whatever the business, vehicles, house, any valuable items were all taken from them by the Pakistani authorities, and only 10,000 Pakistani rupees were allowed with them," Khan said.

For context, 10,000 Pakistani rupees is less than $48 CAD.

Sayel moved to British Columbia in August 2022 with his immediate family, but his siblings, their spouses and their children are now forced to live in refugee camps in Afghanistan.

With the cold weather fast approaching, Sayel worries for the safety and well being of his family, who now have to start from ground zero in a country they're no longer familiar with.

“Their current situation is not good just because it’s the winter time and they’re surviving in the refugee camps right now, and [Sayel’s] in contact with them but most of them are sick right now and they’re basically not in good shape," said Khan.

Khan also said many Afghan advisors who worked for Canada fled to Pakistan during the Taliban takeover in August 2021, and are now in hiding as they're afraid to be forced to go back to Afghanistan for fear of the Taliban.

“At the time of the Taliban taking over, they didn’t have any time to make official documents, passports, nor did they have any time to apply for the Pakistani visa," he said.

"Everybody ran for their life. Everybody ran for the safety of their kids and their loved ones. And now they’re stuck in Pakistan for the last two and a half years waiting for the Canadian authorities and basically asking for the exit documents to be provided to them so they can fly to Canada," he continued.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have criticized the deportation policy, saying Pakistan is denying thousands of at-risk Afghans, especially women and children, access to safety, education and livelihood.

Hameed Hakimi, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, said most Afghan refugees in Pakistan would like to be registered and offered a level of protection and temporary residence, adding that this anti-migrant crackdown is unprecedented.

“Pakistan do not necessarily see them as refugees because there’s no way for the Afghans to claim asylum in Pakistan so they’re granted temporary status," said Hakimi.

Last month, Pakistan ordered all unauthorized Afghan asylum seekers, which is an estimated 1.7 million people, to leave the country by November.

“Because the numbers are so big of these Afghans in Pakistan, when the government decides something so blanket as this policy, it puts every single Afghan in the country in a major vulnerable position," said Hakimi.

“It’s statistically proven where there has been data, for example, that Afghans in Pakistan have contributed to the local economy. The crime rate and the crime engagement is pretty low because a lot of these people have families to support and they have to work. Their involvement and criminality is not as extensive as claimed," he added.

Advocates and human rights groups are now calling on the international community to step in and to hold Pakistan accountable to live up to its promise to resettle Afghan refugees. Top Stories

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