Pakistan bans entry of Afghan patients without passport, visa: Officials

Pakistan has closed the Torkham border to Afghan patients without passports and visas, exacerbating challenges for those seeking critical medical care in the country. This policy change puts lives at risk and further strains the struggling Afghan healthcare system.

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Muhammad Jawad
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Pakistan Imposes Passport and Visa Requirements for Afghan Patients Seeking Treatment

Pakistan Imposes Passport and Visa Requirements for Afghan Patients Seeking Treatment

Pakistan has closed the Torkham border to Afghan patients without passports and Pakistani visas, creating significant challenges for those seeking medical treatment in the country. The Taliban authorities in Nangarhar have asked Afghan patients to refrain from visiting the special commission that previously assisted them in entering Pakistan without legal documents. This is not the first time Pakistan has closed the border to Afghan patients, as it did so just a month ago.

Thousands of Afghans, particularly cancer patients, annually seek medical treatment in neighboring countries, especially Pakistan. However, Afghan applicants face significant obstacles in obtaining a Pakistan visa, including the medical visa, which can cost between $700 to $1,000 on the black market. Pakistan has recently strengthened border security along its frontier with Afghanistan to prevent terrorist infiltration, and all Afghans entering the country must now have valid travel documents and Pakistani visas.

The recent development exacerbates the increasing challenges faced by Afghans in Pakistan since the country initiated a crackdown on undocumented refugees last November, with over half a million Afghan refugees without valid documentation being deported since then. The Pakistani authorities had previously granted visa-exemption to Afghan patients at the Torkham border, allowing 90-105 Afghan patients and their attendants to cross into Pakistan daily for medical treatment. However, the Pakistani border forces have now banned the entry of Afghan patients without proper travel documents, such as a visa and passport, only allowing 8-10 serious Afghan patients to enter Pakistan without legal documents.

Why this matters: The imposition of passport and visa requirements for Afghan patients seeking medical treatment in Pakistan has far-reaching consequences for the already struggling Afghan healthcare system. With limited access to proper medical facilities and treatment options within Afghanistan, many patients rely on neighboring countries like Pakistan for critical care. The new restrictions not only create additional financial burdens for Afghan patients but also potentially put their lives at risk by delaying or preventing access to necessary medical treatment.

In response to the policy change, the Afghan border security force has discontinued the entry of all Afghan patients to Pakistan via the Torkham border. The change comes after the 2015 Army Public School attack, when passport and visa requirements were made compulsory at the Torkham border, although Afghan patients and drivers had been exempted from the proper visa documents until now. As Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expressed deep concern for the rights and welfare of those impacted by the deportations, the situation remains dire for the estimated 3.7 million Afghans living in Pakistan, many of whom have resided there for decades and consider it their home but have no legal recourse to remain.

Key Takeaways

  • Pakistan has closed Torkham border to Afghan patients without visas and passports.
  • Afghan patients face obstacles in obtaining Pakistani medical visas, costing $700-$1,000.
  • Pakistan has banned entry of Afghan patients without proper travel documents, allowing only 8-10 daily.
  • New restrictions create financial burdens and delay access to critical medical treatment for Afghans.
  • Situation worsens for 3.7 million Afghans living in Pakistan, many without legal recourse to remain.