The Immigration Maze – OpEd


The recent approval of the Rwanda Expulsion Bill by the United Kingdom’s (UK) Parliament has pushed immigration policy to the forefront of public debate. This article delves into the subtleties of the United Kingdom’s deportation plan while comparing it to Pakistan’s issues in handling the Afghan refugees population as well as intended expulsion of illegal immigrants. This article will also shed light on the complex interplay of national interests, humanitarian concerns, and sovereignty in immigration policymaking, by a thorough comparative investigation.

Understanding the Rwanda Deportation Bill: Rationale and Implications

The Rwanda Bill, a stand-alone project that has been incisively put forward by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, marks a notable divergence from the conventional modes of immigration. The Asylum Bill intends to shift the responsibility for handling new asylum claims from UK authorities to the Government of Rwanda, where the applications would be assessed and successful applicants given the possibility to relocate to Rwanda if their asylum claims are accepted.

Supporters, in turn, say that such kinds of measures are prerequisites for migration taking place in line with the rules and lessening the pressure the UK border agencies face. Nevertheless, critics also raise questions about the legal status, effectiveness, and humanitarian concerns in implementing this policy by sending refugees to a third country.

Pakistan’s Afghan Refugee Dilemma: 

Pakistan confronts issue of hosting millions of Afghan refugees for decades, who are both registered and illegal. Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 is known as one of the countries, which have shown remarkable hospitality towards Afghan nationals who escaped/fled conflict and persecution in Afghanistan.

Despite the shortage of resources and infrastructure, Pakistan still manages to provide refugees with shelters besides affording their employment opportunities and other necessary services. On the other hand, the long-lasting presence of refugees has been a challenge for Pakistan because of increased pressure on its resources, the widening gap between the socio-economic classes, and the security threats, which illegal Afghan refugees pose.  

What are Pakistan’s Deportation Guidelines? 

The deportation order applies to all “unregistered foreigners,” who remain in Pakistan as of November 1, 2023. Afghan residents are the most directly affected: more than 4 million live in Pakistan, with an estimated 1.7 million living unauthorized illegally. They have been living there for decades, negatively impacting Socio-ethnical mosaic of Society, illegally hitting on regional trade and with undercurrents of security.

Pakistani officials have claimed that Afghan citizens have contributed to a dramatic spike in high-profile terrorist assaults, accusing Afghanistan’s Taliban-led Government of harbouring the militants. A significant proportion of those involved in criminal and terrorist activities were formed to be from illegal Afghan immigrants, categorically. 

The Socio-Economic and Security Burden of Hosting Refugees

The fact that Pakistan has been generous to the Afghan refugee population has resulted in the country’s hardship from both economic and social viewpoints. The refugees’ numbers commonly make things less manageable, overstraining the infrastructure, healthcare systems, and public services such as water, roads, sewers, and electricity, while raising the competition and snatching resources from its own people.

Along with that, Pakistan has suffered deadly attacks originating from Afghan Soil, and it is well documented that some Afghan nationals were found involved in numerous assaults inside Pakistan. However, unfortunately, the presence of refugees has provided an unintentional outlet to the criminals, who thrive on smuggling, human trafficking, and drug trade, they’re adding another factor to the existing problems and contribute negatively towards the overall weakened security of the country.

Deportation Efforts and International Scrutiny: A Double Standard?

Amnesty International reports that 527,981 illegal Afghan refugees have returned to their homeland since September 2023. However, Pakistan’s deportation efforts continue to face harsh criticism from the West and organizations that claim to champion human rights. However, such critiques often overlook the complexities of the situation. While the West talk about human rights, its own actions sometimes contradict their stance.

For example, the UK’s recent Rwanda Deportation Bill, that aims to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for visa processing. Such a discriminating and inhumane policy, justified by the UK on the grounds of deterring illegal immigration and human trafficking, should draw criticism for disregarding the safety and well-being of migrants. This inconsistency and double standards expose a paradox in policy. This selective outrage raises questions about the true motives behind the criticism while suggesting a lack of understanding of Pakistan’s unique challenges.

The Hypocrisy of Selective Outrage: 

We have witnessed the unfairness in international reactions to intervening on the issue of deportation of refugees, this demands uniformity in the global development of immigration and refugee rights. The Western countries might be talking about humanitarian principles and disapprove of the repression in other countries, but they easily implement the same policies they use to tackle border issues and reduce illegal immigration. Therefore, it is crucial to examine how the country’s expulsion strategy gets vilified which, in turn, demonstrates the international community’s hypocritical role in resolving the immigration issue.

Towards a Holistic Approach to Immigration Policy

The conversations around the Rwandan Deportation Bill and the deportation of Afghan refugees by Pakistan demonstrate immigration policy to be an issue of multiple dimensions in an interconnected world. Nations worldwide should endeavor to be consistent, fair, and respectful of sovereignty, when crafting their immigration policies, though this can be a difficult task as nations struggle with irregular migration. However, while humanitarian principles remain crucial, and there cannot be the only factors determining the immigration policies. The security interests of nation must ensure that the immigration management is sustainable, equitable, and non-divisive.

Waleed Sami

Waleed Sami is a postgraduate student of Strategic Studies from the Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS), a school of the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad. Waleed completed his bachelor's from the National Defence University Islamabad (NDU) in International Relations. Waleed is also a research intern at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) and served as a junior researcher at the South Asia Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) and a research intern at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

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