Pakistan’s step to take hundreds of dollars from each Afghan refugees as exit permit fee is drawing sharp comments and criticism form the Western diplomats and the United Nations. The fees also apply to those who have worked with Western governments and agencies in Afghanistan and have escape to Pakistan in the face of persecution from Taliban after the group seized power in Kabul in August 2021.
Pakistan has said that each Afghan refugee who wishes to leave the country will have to pay USD 830. This decision came after Pakistan announced crackdown against foreigners who did not have valid documents to stay in the country. A deadline of November 1 was previously given for unregistered Afghans to leave the country. Media reports have said that there are 2 million such Afghans in Pakistan.
Many of these Afghans have worked for Western governments and agencies during the rule of US-supported government in the country and are now awaiting resettlement in these countries.
The United States has plans to resettle 25,000 Afghans in the US while UK has shown a willingness to take-in 20,000 such Afghans.
But the issue of exit fees has made the matter complicated. On top of it, payment of the fees has to be done using a credit card which most Afghans don’t have access to.
The Guardian quoted five unnamed Western diplomats in Pakistan who said that the step taken by Pakistan to charge such an exit fee is internationally unprecedented.
“I know it is very tough economically for Pakistan but really, to try to make money off refugees is really unattractive,” said one diplomat as quoted by The Guardian.
“The issue has also been raised by the two UN agencies in the lead on this mess, the [UN refugee agency] UNHCR and [International Organization of Migration] IOM,” the diplomat added. “It has also been raised in capitals and headquarters. I suspect everyone has also passed the message to their [Pakistani contacts].”The news report quoted another unnamed diplomat who said the some Western governments were made aware of the decision by Pakistan and that it claimed that USD 850 was lower amount compared to USD 10,000 initially planned.
“It is very bizarre and I personally find it very frustrating. If Pakistan wants to facilitate the process of the settlement of refugees in the west then they should not make it more complicated with such absurd conditions,” the diplomat said. “What is the justification for this exit permit fee? To make a lot of money?”