Afghan families in Pakistan waiting to immigrate to Canada as part of Canada’s newly announced immigration program, are facing jail risk as their visas have expired or some have crossed the border paperless and do not hold any legal documents.
According to Canada’s CBC news channel, Pakistan has warned paperless refugees of facing up to three years jail time if they do not renew their visas by the end of 2022.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior has been streaming a video ad message on governmental social media channels and televisions since the beginning of October, warning over staying foreigners to be sentenced up to three years of imprisonment after December 31, NBC reported.
“The messaging by the Pakistani government that those Afghans that are in Pakistan illegally will be deported and potentially arrested is very troubling,” said Brian Macdonald, executive director for Aman Lara, a non-profit organization of Canadian veterans and interpreters who have been working for more than a year to bring Afghan refugees to Canada.
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This comes as Canada recently announced 3,000 immigration visas for Afghan nationals who live in any third country and do not hold UN’s refugee card. According to Khaama Press’s monitoring desk, thousands of Afghans have crossed the border without holding valid documents to apply for Canada immigration program which resumed on October 17th.
In the meantime, Pakistani media outlets recently reported that one 1,000 Afghan nationals who did not hold valid travel documents including an entry visa to Pakistan, have been imprisoned.
Afghanistan’s former President, Hamid Karzai in one of his recent remarks accused Pakistan of mistreating Afghan refugees and he called on the UN and international human rights organizations to watch Pakistan government’s behavior towards the refugees.
Pakistan authorities must treat Afghan refugees according to international laws and policies, Hamid Karzai said in his series of tweets.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Global Affairs Canada has said in media statements that they have active and constructive dialogue with the Pakistan’s government on issues related to safe passage for vulnerable Afghans, CBC report said.
Pakistan is the only country that has an open border for Afghans to facilitate their travel abroad, while Tajikistan and India have closed their consulate services since August 2021 and do not issue visas for Afghan Nationals.
Afghans can travel to Iran too, but due to the imposed international sanctions, refugees cannot file asylum applications from Iran.
Thousands of Afghan families are waiting in Pakistan to migrate to western countries including U.S, Canada and Europe.