Pakistan Frees 524 Afghan Migrants From Karachi Jail

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- Hundreds of Afghan migrants, including women and children, have been released from a jail in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, Afghan authorities said Saturday.

Pakistani police in multiple raids last month detained at least 1,200 Afghan nationals who entered Karachi without valid travel documents.

The arrests brought criticism from around Afghanistan after images of locked up Afghan children circulated online. The detentions underscored the strained relations between the two South Asian neighbors.

The 524 released Afghan nationals include 54 women and 97 children, Afghanistan's embassy in Islamabad said.

A video shared by the embassy on Twitter showed women and children behind the main gate of the prison, waiting to be released under supervision of Pakistani and Afghan authorities. Another video showed men seated in a bus ready to depart for Afghanistan.

Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation of their country, creating one of the world's largest refugee populations. Since then, Pakistan has been hosting Afghans, urging them to register themselves with the United Nations and local authorities to avoid any risk of deportation.

According to a recently conducted U.N.-backed survey, 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees are residing in Pakistan.

A report from Pakistan's National Commission on Human Rights said there has been a drastic rise in Afghans seeking to enter the country for reasons ranging from fleeing persecution to seeking medical aid and looking for job opportunities, since the Taliban seized power in August 2021.