Pakistan is home to nearly 1.6 Afghani Refugees who started coming in response to Soviet invasion and US aggression almost 30 years ago. In the past, Pakistan has been consistent and compassionate in its annually 12-month extension of the refugees’ legal status. However, tides have been shifting in recent years.
Due to security concerns, officials have cracked down on paroling the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, slowing traffic between the two countries, and inconveniencing those trying to visit loved ones back home or travel. Deportations have increased drastically, as over 22,000 individuals were deported in 2016. Additionally, more refugees have been leaving by choice. Last year 600,000 departed, 6 times as many as the previous years. Their motivation may be Pakistani aggression or just the desire to return to a now safer home.
Finally, over the past few years, the Pakistan government shortened the yearly time often extended to refugees from 12 months to 6 months, to 3. The legal status was going to expire in March of 2017, but this past week, the cabinet voted to extend legal status of Afghani refugees until the end of 2017.
This last act of acceptance towards the refugees seems to disrupt the ongoing trends and display a mixed message of Pakistan’s stance towards refugees.