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Balochistan’s Border: A Gateway for Illegal Migrants

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Balochistan shares external borders with Iran in the west, Afghanistan in the north and northwest and, the Arabian sea in the south. The Iranian border is around 960 km long with two official legal border crossings at Taftan and Mand, while the Afghan border in Balochistan is around 1100 km long with one official border crossing at Chaman.

There has almost always been trouble at the Iranian and Afghan borders because, despite there being only a small number of legal border crossings, there are numerous unfrequented routes. According to an FIA official, around 60% of the human smuggling in Pakistan is carried out through Balochistan. The province is used as a transit route for people travelling into and out of the country.

According to a UNODC report, there are around 62 unfrequented routes in the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Balochistan. These routes are often used by illegal migrants seeking passage through Balochistan to Afghanistan and vice versa. The report also states that a large number of these migrants are insurgents that are funded by various organizations to participate in anti-state activities on both sides of the border. A number of these migrants are Afghan nationals seeking refuge or better employment opportunities in Pakistan.

News reports have stated that similar movement takes place at the Pakistan-Iran border as well. Anti-state Baloch insurgents have been known to use the numerous unfrequented routes on the border to enter Pakistan and escape afterwards.

A news report states that in 2018, around 30,000 migrants have travelled illegally through Balochistan by exploiting the porous borders to Iran and Afghanistan. Studies show that the major factors that provoke these migrants to move across borders illegally include poverty, unemployment and, the previously worsening law and order situation. People are often tempted to move across borders for better employment opportunities as well as peace and stability.

A suggested solution to this problem is the alleviation of the factors that influence it. The first would be to promote legal and decent employment opportunities locally and abroad. Pakistan can collaborate with Iran and Afghanistan to formulate trade agreements and policies that increase and promote such opportunities. A counter argument to this suggestion would be that before signing any trade agreements the countries would need to resolve their issues with each other and improve security conditions. However, a trade agreement could be the answer to that obstacle as well.

An example is the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). It is a recently signed trade agreement between the three states. Despite the anti-Mexico statements made by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, during his presidential campaign and after taking the Presidency, he agreed to sign the trade agreement. This agreement ensures increased employment opportunities as well as relatively free-trade between the three states.

This means that they would have to put all of their differences aside, which would definitely improve their relationship with each other. A similar solution could be applied here as well, to improve employment opportunities. Improving employment and livelihood opportunities would, in turn, help alleviate poverty. In addition, if the three states depend, even remotely, on each other for trade, they would take security threats even more seriously.

Another, relatively aggressive but necessary solution is strengthening our borders. Within the last few years, governments on both sides of the border have taken initiatives to prevent illegal movement across it. At the Iranian border, construction of a border barrier to replace the tattered fence began in 2007.

In 2016, it was decided by the Afghan government to dig a trench along the border. In 2018, Pakistan announced that they would be building a fence along the border; work on which is already underway. In addition, an increased presence of security forces can also be observed at the legal crossings as well as intermittently throughout the border to prevent the use of unfrequented routes.

Illegal migration is human security problem. When states fail to provide for their citizens, the citizens are forced to look for other, often undesirable, means of livelihood. To mitigate this problem, it is important to first understand the factors that cause it. Once these factors have been dealt with, the problem automatically begins to resolve itself.

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is a Mass Communication graduate from NUST. She enjoys creative writing, reading and, photography in her free time.

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