The dangers, violations undocumented migrants face on Afghanistan and Pakistan border

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Many Afghan families travel to Pakistan through the “Zero Point” of Spin Boldak. Photo: IOM/Léo Torréton
Many Afghan families travel to Pakistan through the “Zero Point” of Spin Boldak. Photo: IOM/Léo Torréton

On the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, dozens of colorful trucks, cars and rickshaws crisscross a sandy road, creating thick clouds of dust. The atmosphere tense, rain begins to fall as the border guards of the de facto authorities (DfA) try to organize the coming and going of vehicles.

A few months ago, exchanges of gunfire resulted in deaths on both sides of the “Zero Point”, the line where Afghanistan becomes Pakistan. Since August 2021, tensions between the two countries have intensified.

From the east to the south-west of Afghanistan, across the Durand Line, a fence some 2,600 kilometres long divides the two countries. Spotlights beaming from guard posts chase through the mountains to ensure no travelers, from refugees to migrants, cross to the other side overnight.

Nevertheless, many Afghans attempt to travel to Pakistan, whether regularly or irregularly, usually to work, study, seek medical treatment, visit family or flee life-threatening situations. Smuggling routes are being used more frequently as many Afghans lack the legal documentation required to travel. In March 2023, at least 340,000 Afghans traveled to Pakistan through the border points and an estimated higher number did so through irregular crossing points.

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