top of page

Uyghur families at risk of deportation in Pakistan

Pakistan orders all migrants lacking documentation to leave after recent suicide bomber attacks by Afghans.

By Gulchehra Hoja for RFA Uyghur

October 10, 2023

About 20 Uyghur families face deportation from Pakistan if they fail to leave the South Asian country by Nov. 1 after the government ordered all illegal migrants expelled following a series suicide bombings involving Afghans, said a Uyghur philanthropist who lives there.

Pakistan has been on edge since dozens of people were killed in two suicide bombings during the last week of September.

Days later, on Oct. 3, Pakistan said it would expel all migrants without documentation, including 1.73 million Afghan refugees, who did not leave the country by Nov. 1. Authorities said that 14 of 24 suicide bombings in the country this year were carried out by Afghan nationals, the Associated Press reported.

Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti told reporters that migrants without a valid residence permit who remained after the deadline would face deportation, Pakistani media reported.

Nearly 20 Uyghur families – or about 100 people – who had fled Afghanistan and settled in Rawalpindi in northern Pakistan face deportation because they lack Afghan or Chinese passports and Pakistani residence permits, said Omer Khan, founder of the Pakistan-based Omer Uyghur Trust.

The Uyghurs have sought help from the United Nations Office for Refugees in Pakistan for years, but without success, he said.

“Time is running out, with only 20 days remaining,” he said. “If a solution is not found within this time frame, the Pakistani police will apprehend them. We find ourselves in an extremely dire situation."

1960s migration

Most of the Uyghurs are descendants of individuals who migrated to Afghanistan in the 1960s from places like Yarkand county and other areas of Kashgar prefecture in Xinjiang because of repression by Chinese authorities, he said. They lack any kind of documentation and have been denied it by the Pakistani government.

During the former Soviet Union’s offensive against Afghanistan in the 1980s, some of the Uyghurs migrated to Pakistan alongside millions of Afghan refugees.

These Uyghurs have resided in a community in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for many years without receiving legal residence permits or government recognition.

The U.N.’s refugee office in Pakistan and headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, said by email that they could not respond to individual inquiries “due to the current high volume of applications and communications.”

The Pakistani Embassy in Washington did not respond to RFA’s phone calls or email inquiries.

A Uyghur named Abdulahed who lives in Rawalpindi said he fears being sent back to Afghanistan along with his wife and four children.

“If they send us back to Afghanistan, we don’t know what dangers we might face under the Taliban government,” he told RFA.

Abdulahed and other Uyghurs, who have had no contact with China for decades, are also worried that if they refuse to go to Afghanistan, the Pakistani government could deport them to China.

“This is a group of Uyghurs that’s already quite vulnerable because their status was unclear in Afghanistan, and now it’s also uncertain in Pakistan,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

“But this is happening at a time when we know that severe human rights abuses are continuing in the Uyghur region, and so this is a community that needs the kind of protections that international human rights law affords,” she said.

Translated by RFA Uyghur. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.



bottom of page