Pakistan will stick to its new target of expelling nearly three million Afghan refugees by the end of this year, rejecting calls by rights groups to let them stay to the end of 2017, a regional official said on Friday.
Information Minister of the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Mushtaq Ghani, where most refugees live, said they could not host the refugees anymore.
“We cannot host them anymore. They are burden on our economy,” he said, echoing a sentiment that has become increasingly apparent in Pakistan in recent years.
Ghani said a mechanism was being prepared to send them back by December.
Pakistan still hosts around 2.7 million Afghans displaced by the Soviet invasion of their country in 1979.
The government first set June 30 deadline to expel them, but extended it by six months.
Human Rights Watch urged the government to further extend the refugees’ right to stay to the end of 2017, to reduce their exposure to harassment by police, threats and extortion in Pakistan.
However authorities in Islamabad said they couldn’t give concessions to refugees at the expense of their own people facing poverty and unemployment.
Abdul Qadir Baloch, federal minister for States and Frontiers Regions, which deals with refugees, said no fewer than one million jobs have been occupied by Afghans, which cannot be justified.