KABUL (Pajhwok): Pakistan has set ‘overstaying’ foreigners a new deadline to leave the country or renew their visas until the end of this year, alarming Afghans waiting in the country to go to Canada.
Pakistan Ministry of Interior said a video ad said a general amnesty has been approved for overstaying foreigners to exit Pakistan without paying overstay charges with a cut-off date of 31st December 2022.
No legal action will be taken against the foreigners who will avail this amnesty scheme. As per foreigners Act 1946, three-year sentence can be awarded to overstaying foreigners.
After 31st December 2022, action will be initiated against overstaying foreigners who are overstaying more than a year. Moreover, they will be black listed for further entry into Pakistan.
The process costs applicants hundreds of dollars each — putting families that escaped Afghanistan with little or no money at a serious disadvantage.
The video ad produced by Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior has been streaming on government social media channels and on television since the start of October.
“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.
While the only foreign countries named in the ad are India and Somalia, it’s running in three different languages: Urdu (Pakistan’s national language) and Dari and Pashto, frequently spoken by Afghans.
“They are targeting us directly,” Mohammad Younas Nasimi, an Afghan refugee applicant, told CBS News. He’s living in a hotel room in Islamabad with his wife and six children while he waits to see if he qualifies for a Special Immigration Measures program run by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
The program is meant to help accelerate immigration for former military interpreters and other former employees of the Canadian government and armed forces, along with their families.
In a media statement, Pakistan’s High Commission in Canada said it remains committed “to facilitating travelling from Pakistan of all those Afghans whose cases are identified by the sponsoring countries/governments through their Missions in Pakistan.”
“[Afghans] having valid travel documents as well as visas/documents for onward travel from Pakistan have been and will be facilitated by the Government of Pakistan,” said the statement.
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