Immigration to Pakistan

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Immigration to Pakistan refers to the settlement of foreign nationals in Pakistan. Immigration policy is overseen by the Interior Minister of Pakistan through the Directorate General of Immigration & Passports. Most immigrants are not eligible for citizenship or permanent residency, unless they are married to a Pakistani citizen or a Commonwealth citizen who have invested minimum PKR 5 million in the local economy.[1] Based on the United Nations report World Population Policies 2005, the total immigrant population in Pakistan was estimated to be 3,254,000 represented 2.1% of national population ranked 13th in the world.[2][3] According to United Nations report International Migration Profiles 2002, the population of immigrants in Pakistan was 1,098,110 in 1990 and then, 1,412,560 in 2000.[4] As of 2012 there are 5 million illegal immigrants in Pakistan. Around 2 million are Bangladeshis, 2.5 million are Afghans and the other 0.5 million are from various other areas such as Myanmar, Iraq and Africa.[5]


As of 2009, 2.1% of the population of Pakistan had foreign origins, however the number of immigrants population in Pakistan recently grew sharply. Immigrants from South Asia make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Pakistan. The largest immigrant groups in Pakistan are Afghans, Bangladeshi, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Indians, Sri Lankan, Burmese[6][7] and Britons[8] including a sizeable number of those of Pakistani origin. Other expatriate communities in Pakistan are Armenians, Australians, Iranians, Turks, Iraqis, Chinese,[9] Americans,[10] Filipinos,[11] and previously Bosnians refugees[12] and many others. Migrants from different countries of Arab world specially Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen are in thousands. Nearly all illegal migrants in Pakistan are Muslim refugees and they are accepted by the local population. There is no political support or legislation to deport these refugees from Pakistan.

Shaikh Muhammad Feroze, the chairman of the Pakistani Bengali Action Committee, claimed that there were 200 settlements of Bengali-speaking people in Pakistan, of which 132 are in Karachi. They are found in various areas of Pakistan such as Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, Tando Adam and Lahore.[13]

Experts say that the migration of both Bengalis and Burmese (Rohingya) to Pakistan started in the 1980s and continued till 1998. Large scale Rohingya migration to Karachi made Karachi one of the largest population centres of Rohingyas in the world after Myanmar.[14] The Burmese community of Karachi is spread out over 60 slums in Karachi such as the Burmi Colony in Korangi, Arakanabad, Machchar colony, Bilal colony, Ziaul Haq Colony and Godhra Camp.[15]

Thousands of Uyghur Muslims have also migrated to the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, fleeing religious and cultural persecution in Xinjiang, China.[16]

Refugees and asylum seekers[edit]

As of 2013, approximately 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees still remain in Pakistan.[17] These Afghans fled their native country due to armed conflicts and droughts. They are expected to leave Pakistan and return to Afghanistan in the coming years.[18] In addition, about 500 Somalians, 60-80 Iraqi and 20-30 Iranian immigrants were known to live in urban areas of Pakistan.[17] Nearly all of these are asylum seekers waiting to be resettled in developed countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.

Type of population Total in Pakistan whom assisted by UNHCR
(January 2013)
Total in Pakistan whom assisted by UNHCR
(December 2013)
Refugees 1,649,630 1,555,630
Asylum-seekers 2,500 3,500

Illegal aliens[edit]

Following the September 11 attacks, Pakistan ordered all the provincial governments to take action against illegal aliens who entered the country after 2001, but decided to offer registration only to those immigrants who entered the country before December 2001. The National Alien Registration Authority (NARA) started registering illegal immigrants in the country in January 2006. According to NARA, there were an estimated 1.8 million illegal aliens in Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi in 2007.[19] Others believe that there may be about 3.35 million illegal immigrants in Pakistan.[20] As of January 2010, the number of illegal aliens in Karachi is estimated to be between 1.6 and 2 million people.[21][22][23] Thousands of nationals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan,[24][25][26] are illegally living in Karachi.[27] This includes thousands of Muslim students from Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia studying in the Pakistani madrasah[28] while thousands of women from Bangladesh and Burma are working as maids and prostitutes there; most of them are illegal immigrants.[29]

According to some sources, thousands of radicals of Arab origin who entered the country illegally to fight in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979, and later against the US-led invasion in October 2001, still remain in the country.

Although the presence of illegal aliens in Pakistan is against the law, the Government of Pakistan did not make a serious effort to deport them until January 2010 when Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik asked illegal immigrants living in the country to either leave or register themselves with the department concerned, as a major crackdown would soon initiated against them. This action was taken following the recent bomb attack and targeted killings of political activists in the city, against foreign militants operating in Pakistan.[30]

According to NARA, there are foreign nationals from over 76 countries, mostly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, India and Burma illegally living and working in the country as laborers involved in construction businesses and others which require unskilled manpower,[31] whilst most of the illegal immigrants are those who intend to use Pakistan as a transit country in order to immigrate to Western countries.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Immigration Policy". Directorate General of Immigration & Passports. Retrieved 16 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "World Population Policies 2005", United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, March 2006. ISBN 978-92-1-151420-9.
  3. ^ "International Migration 2006", United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. United Nations Publication, No. E.06.XIII.6, March 2006.
  4. ^ "International Migration Profiles 2002 - Pakistan". Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations. October 2002. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  5. ^ "Five million illegal immigrants residing in Pakistan". Express Tribune. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2016. ISLAMABAD: Around five million illegal immigrants have been residing in different cities of Pakistan for more than three decades. The illegal immigrants, around two million Bangladeshis, 2.5 million Afghanis and 0.5 million other nationals including Africans, Iranians, Iraqis and Myanmars, are currently living in Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and other cities, an official said on Monday. Regarding steps taken to control the flow of illegal immigration in the country, the official said that the Anti-Trafficking Units at Provincial Police Headquarters have been established to combat internal human trafficking while Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) has also been established. 
  6. ^ Homeless in Karachi - Outlook India
  7. ^ SRI On-Site Action Alert: Rohingya Refugees of Burma and UNHCR’s repatriation program - Burma Library
  8. ^ "Brits Abroad". BBC News. 2006-12-06. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  9. ^ Fazl-e-Haider, Syed (2009-09-11), "Chinese shun Pakistan exodus", Asia Times, retrieved 2009-09-11 
  10. ^ Private American Citizens Residing Abroad, Bureau of Consular Affairs, 1999, archived from the original on 2010-03-26, retrieved 2009-09-17 
  11. ^ "Philippines monitors condition of Filipino workers in Pakistan". M&C. November 5, 2007. Archived from the original on January 3, 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  12. ^ Rashid, Ahmed (26 June 1993). "Blonde Muslims find shelter in Pakistan: Refugees from Bosnia were given a warm welcome in a distant land, Ahmed Rashid writes from Islamabad". The Independent. London. 
  13. ^ "Fringe Pakistan: Bengali-speaking Pakistanis demand right to vote". Express Tribune. 10 March 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2016. Shaikh Muhammad Feroze, the chairman of the committee, said during a press conference on Friday that political parties and the government should acknowledge the sacrifices of their ancestors. 'We live in Sindh and feel proud to be called Sindhis rather than Bengalis. We appeal to Sindhi nationalists and Sindhis to help us in our struggle,' he added. He said that Bengali-speaking people were not given educational rights as they did not possess national identity cards. 'Our children can’t get an education after matriculation because colleges ask for the identity cards but the National Database Registration Authority has never accepted us as Pakistani citizens.' Shaikh said that over three million Bengalis and Biharis were grateful to the government for accepting them as Pakistani citizens. 'We postponed a hunger strike planned for March 25 after the government made decisions,' he added. 'We can go on a hunger strike, if our rights are not given.' He claimed that there were 200 settlements of Bengali-speaking people across the country, including 132 in Karachi. They populate different parts of Pakistan, including Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, Tando Adam and Lahore. 
  14. ^ Rehman, Zia Ur (23 Feb 2015). "Identity issue haunts Karachi’s Rohingya population". Dawn. Retrieved 26 December 2016. Their large-scale migration had made Karachi one of the largest Rohingya population centres outside Myanmar but afterwards the situation started turning against them. 
  15. ^ Khan, Naimat (12 June 2015). "The Rohingyas of Karachi". 
  16. ^ Jaffrey, Shumaila (12 August 2015). "How the Uighurs keep their culture alive in Pakistan". BBC. Retrieved 26 December 2016. Insa is one of a few thousand Uighur Muslims who live in Gilgit. The community is a mix of generations. Some left Xinjiang and the thriving trading town of Kashgar in 1949, while others are later arrivals. Map showing Kashgar and Gilgit. All say they were forced to leave as they were the victims of cultural and religious oppression in China. 
  17. ^ a b "Official website of the UNHCR country operations profile – Pakistan". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "48 towns to be established for Afghan refugees: Anwari". Pajhwok Afghan News. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  19. ^ "Govt orders action against aliens entering Pakistan". Daily Times. December 2, 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  20. ^ "Illegal immigrants in Pakistan". National Alien Registration Authority. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  21. ^ Malik gives 30-day time to illegal immigrants (January 9, 2010). "Malik gives 30-day time to illegal immigrants". The Nation. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  22. ^ "‘Get registered in 30 days or face the music’: Clock starts ticking for illegal immigrants". Daily Times. January 9, 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  23. ^ "Immigrants in Karachi warned to get themselves registered in 30 days". Associated Press of Pakistan. January 8, 2010. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  24. ^ a b Sikander Shaheen (January 13, 2010). "Illegal immigrants a grave security threat". The Nation. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  25. ^ "Sindh Assembly should play its due role". Dawn. February 10, 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  26. ^ "Illegal immigrants". Dawn. October 7, 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  27. ^ Fang Yang (January 8, 2010). "Illegal immigrants get two weeks to leave Karachi: minister". Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  28. ^ B.Raman (August 15, 2005). "TERRORISM IN SOUTHERN THAILAND: AN UPDATE". South Asia Analysis Group. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  29. ^ Aamir Latif (June 24, 2007). "Immigrant Dream Shattered in Karachi". Islam Online. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  30. ^ Ruchika Talwar (January 16, 2010). "Civil strife". The Indian Express. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  31. ^ "Steps planned to register illegal aliens". Dawn. January 16, 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 

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