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CTV News in Pakistan: View from inside the Afghan refugee camp


PAKISTAN –

In a park in Pakistan for children to play, there are Afghan children struggling to survive.

Living in flimsy shacks, without basic things like running water or enough food, only their mothers protect them – most of them are widows.

“My husband was killed by the Taliban,” a young mother told CTV News.

It was a very common saying among other women, she said it almost by accident. There is more urgency in the follow-up.

“You’re not worried about me. I worry about my children.”

The United Nations estimates that only about half of the roughly three million Afghans in Pakistan are registered. The rest are undocumented, living on the sidelines.

These are Afghans with no status. They cannot work. They cannot go to school. They do not have access to health care.

Then there is the constant fear of detention or deportation.

The Pakistani government is threatening to end an amnesty that protects foreigners who lack valid documents. About 1,500 Afghans, including women and children, have been arrested in recent weeks.

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

The mothers in that tent city knew that those makeshift shelters wouldn’t withstand the elements of the harsh winter. The children, however, benevolently ignored the risk. They happily walk 15 minutes to get fresh water as usual.

I saw them laugh as they washed the dishes in a small bucket and remember to take off their shoes before entering the tent.

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

A girl attracted to reporter Genevieve Beauchemin asked a question, she couldn’t stop staring. When photojournalist Stéphane Brisson demonstrated his camera’s features, he too widened his eyes in surprise.

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

Children are children. For their mother, there is always anxiety.

The influx of immigrants that began in the late 1970s when Afghans were driven out of the Saur Revolution, followed by the invasion of the Soviet Union, has been up and down over the years. It intensifies in 2021 when the Taliban regains power.

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

When faced with threats and an uncertain future in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, economic hardship in a neighboring country is the preferred choice – one that is both obvious and courageous. But in that park in Pakistan, the trade-offs seem equally dire.

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

(Rosa Hwang/CTV News)

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