ISLAMABAD: Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan are waiting in long border queues to return to their conflict-torn home country on Wednesday as Islamabad began a crackdown against undocumented immigrants, despite a global outcry.

“More than 10,000 Afghans have crossed the border yesterday and we expect another 25,000 will do today,“ Fazal Rabi, deputy head of Pakistan’s agency for refugees, told German news agency (dpa).

More than a hundred families each comprising around 30 people were in the queue in lorries at Torkham, one of the two major border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Rabi added.

Police in the southern metropolis of Karachi and the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa began arresting undocumented Afghans on Wednesday after a one-month deadline for voluntary return expired, officials said.

“We have begun to arrest illegal immigrants,“ said Irfan Baloch, a police officer in Karachi, the city where most of the more than 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan live.

The crackdown had also begun in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and its major city Peshawar, local police official Kashif Aftab told dpa.

Pakistan last month announced the deportation of around 1.7 million Afghan refugees living in the country, a move criticised by Western governments and global human rights group.

Activists said police were harassing even those who have legal documents or were waiting for their settlement in the US and other countries after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.

“Everybody is being suspected and harassed,” said Muniza Kakar, a rights lawyer in Karachi defending refugees in the courts. -Bernama

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