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National Geographic ‘Afghan Girl’ to be deported from Pakistan

A judge on Friday ordered the “Afghan girl” made famous by a 1985 National Geographic cover photo to be deported from Pakistan.

Sharbat Gula was arrested Oct. 26 in Peshawar for illegally obtaining an ID card and was sentenced to 15 days in jail with a $1,000 fine, Afghani media reported.

Gula pleaded guilty before a court Friday to using fraudulent identity papers, and a judge ordered she be sent back to Afghanistan on Monday with her four children, the Guardian reported.

“The government and the people of Afghanistan await Sharbat Gula with great emotion, and will welcome her very warmly,” Afghan Consulate Official Abdul Hameed Jalili said, according to Reuters.

A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman told the Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn that it could not help Gula because she was not a registered refugee.

But Steve McCurry, the photographer behind the famous picture, created a fund for Gula and her children. McCurry first photographed Gula in 1985 in Pakistan and found her again in 2002 for a second photograph.

Pakistan has been cracking down on Afghan migrants living in the country illegally. The New York Times reported that about 1.5 million migrants will return to their home country by year’s end. According to the UN, Pakistan alone has 1.5 million Afghan refugees, who now face a November 15 deadline to obtain legal documentation or be deported.

Nonprofit organizations are warning a mass deportation could create a humanitarian crisis.

“By forcing Afghan refugees to return across the border into the arms of an increasingly deadly conflict, Pakistan is in breach of the principle of non-refoulement,” Amnesty International wrote in a response to Gula’s deportation order. “It is putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk of serious human rights abuses.”

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