The Pakistani ambassador to Greece wrote a letter to the Foreign Office (FO) earlier this month, detailing the dire state of Pakistani human trafficking victims in Greece and seeking urgent attention of the government to curtail the crisis-like situation, it emerged on Wednesday.
According to documents acquired by DawnNews, Ambassador Khalid Usman Qaiser in his message to Islamabad dated January 9, 2018 disclosed that he had dispatched bodies of 20 Pakistanis who died while trying to enter other European countries through Greece last month alone. Additionally, the bodies of three missing Pakistanis are being located.
He said the "unchecked" smuggling of people, especially from the Punjab districts of Gujrat, Gujranwala, Mandi Bahauddin and Sialkot is "hurting Pakistan all around".
With Greece facing an economic crisis and unemployment as high as 40 per cent, Pakistani immigrants have no prospects of moving to mainland Europe either as the European Union has shut its door to economic migrants, the envoy said.
In these circumstances, Pakistani illegal immigrants end up in detention centres in Greece, while some apply for an asylum. Jobless and penniless, they are then "trapped by criminals", who promise them access to other EU countries. But many of them perish on the way, Qaiser wrote.
The ambassador revealed that the human trafficking victims often resort to various crimes, while Pakistani teenaged boys and middleaged women "have become sex workers and look for clients every evening in public places".
Some young men who wish to return to Pakistan are not deported by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) because they are underage under EU laws, he said, adding that such hapless migrants then become a liability for the Pakistan embassy.
The envoy told the FO that while he is making efforts to tackle the issue locally, the "tap has to be closed at your end". He urged the interior ministry to take immediate steps to curb human trafficking as the issue is "becoming unmanageable".
Days after receiving the envoy's plea, the FO in a letter asked the interior ministry to investigate the matter on priority basis. It said the issue of human smuggling, especially children, is a "serious and sensitive" matter which can damage Pakistan's image as well as its relations with the EU.
"If not effectively addressed... the issue can have [a] negative bearing on the GSP Plus facility, granted to Pakistan by the European Union," it wrote.
Thousands of Pakistanis fleeing poverty, unemployment and law and order problems have been attempting to illegally enter Europe.
Every year, thousands of Pakistanis make abortive attempts to enter Greece via Iran and Turkey for better working opportunities. Most of them are arrested in Iran and Turkey and sent back.