ISLAMABAD: The authorities sent back on Thursday a plane with deported migrants from Greece after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) found 30 passengers onboard to have been illegally deported from the European country.
On the orders of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the FIA had stopped the ‘unverified deportees’ from disembarking after the chartered flight landed at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport.
The interior ministry said in a statement that the authorities had not been provided proper documented proof of the passengers being Pakistani citizens. It said no-one would be allowed to enter the country if his/her citizenship was not confirmed.
“Despite having settled all issues with the European Commissioner, who recently visited Pakistan, the laws of the land have been violated by one of the European countries, which absolutely cannot be allowed,” the statement quoted Chaudhry Nisar as saying.
Nineteen shifted to Anti-Human Trafficking Cell for questioning
The minister also said that some countries were not trying to understand Pakistan government’s resolve to curb this unethical, inhuman and unlawful act of sending back passengers without proper verification.
The plane was sent back to Athens about three hours later, according to airport authorities, after 19 of the 49 deportees were allowed to enter the country.
This is for the first time that Pakistan has refused entry to deportees. The move came a week after high-level talks with the European Union to settle a dispute over forced repatriations.
On Wednesday, Chaudhry Nisar said the deportation of any citizen on documents issued by any other country was a violation of international laws and human rights.
The ministry also sent a letter to the Canadian High Commission over reported violation of the procedure in sending deportees back to Pakistan.
An estimated 50,000 Pakistanis travel legally to Europe for work each year. Last year, about 21,000 living there without permission were ordered to return to Pakistan, according to EU statistics.
Pakistan is one of the top five countries of origin for illegal migration to Europe, according to figures from European statistical institute Eurostat.
Clashes erupted on the Greek-Macedonian border on Tuesday when Macedonian riot police fired tear gas to repel up to 1,000 mostly Pakistani migrants trying to force their way across a newly erected border fence, a Reuters witness said.
Migrants later blocked the crossing for Syrians and others who would be let in as refugees. “If we don’t cross, no one does!” they chanted. Police stood guard. Buses full of people who have landed elsewhere in Greece kept arriving.
So far 886,662 people seeking safety have reached European shores this year, about four times the total in 2014, William Spindler, of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Geneva this week. Half of those arriving are Syrians fleeing war. The vast majority reaching Europe arrive by sea.
Mohammad Asghar adds from Rawalpindi: FIA Director Inam Ghani told Dawn that five of the 19 deportees who were allowed to enter Pakistan had travelled abroad with valid documents, but later entered Europe illegally and were detained there. The other 14 were sent to Europe by travel agents through land route via Balochistan, Iran and Turkey.
The FIA director said that all the 19 deportees had been shifted to the Anti-Human Trafficking Cell for questioning to track down their travel agents.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2015