ISLAMABAD: More than 80,000 Pakistanis were deported last year, of which half were deported from Saudi Arabia, a report on human trafficking in Pakistan by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has found.
The Menace of Human Trafficking/Smuggling – Pakistan’s Response to the Problem has been finalised and is available with Dawn, but will be officially launched next month.
The report also said that a large number of women and children are trafficked within Pakistan, but the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) does not have the mandate to act.
With just 4,500 employees, FIA cannot curb human trafficking and smuggling, researcher says
NCHR Researcher Ghulam Mohammad, who authored the report, told Dawn that around 50 people who travelled abroad illegally were interviewed.
The interviews revealed that a number of people who had failed to reach western countries despite several attempts became agents, and were involved in human trafficking, because “they have complete knowledge of the different routes”, he said.
One of the most painful findings, he added, was that many girls were sent to the Middle East after they were told they would receive jobs in beauty salons “but after reaching there, they are used for prostitution”.
“Those girls cannot come back to Pakistan as they know their families will never accept them because of social pressure,” he added.
Mr Mohammad said most people are trafficked at the border with Iran, where there is just one FIA checkpost, in Taftan.
“However, we cannot blame the FIA because the FIA only has 4,500 employees and it cannot curb human trafficking with such a small number of employees,” he said.
He added that the research also found that the majority of people trying to travel abroad were from Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin.
Many people travel to Saudi Arabia for Haj and Umrah, but do not return, he said.
He also said that the FIA’s mandate should be expanded to cover human trafficking within the country as well.
In a statement, NCHR Chairman retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan said that men, women and children in Pakistan are being trafficked and smuggled from various parts of the country. He said this is mostly commonly observed in people from Punjab, who are considered an easy target.
“Pakistanis are the 10th most identified individuals in the world who attempt at illegal migration to Australia as well as European countries. Pakistan is an important route for thousands of illegal migrants from Afghanistan, who use Balochistan’s border to gain access to Iran which then opens the gateway to Europe via Turkey.
“Moreover, the Gulf countries are an easy target for Pakistanis who are employed as labourers, domestic workers and in agriculture. Dubai acts as a sex market for traffickers, where Pakistani women and girls – recruited on basis of a false job offer – are sold,” he said.
According to the report, the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making a significant effort to do so. Despite these efforts, which include the prosecution of some trafficking offences and public awareness programming, the government has not shown evidence of progress in addressing issues of bonded labour, forced child labour and the trafficking of migrant workers by fraudulent labour recruiters.
It also noted the three major human trafficking routes. The most frequently used land routes are the coastline and the border with Iran, which provide easy access to Gulf states and European countries. From the Iranian border areas, people are picked up by smugglers and traffickers, and then transported to Turkey, Libya, Greece, Italy, Spain and other countries.
Thousands of people are smuggled from Afghanistan via the Chaghi district in Balochistan to Iran. Chaghi is the main trafficking and smuggling route for European and Gulf countries.
When crossing over from Afghanistan, local Taliban demand Rs2,000 per vehicle, which gives smugglers access to use Taliban-dominated border areas. Each vehicle contains 20 to 30 passengers, and the drivers are paid Rs3,000 to Rs4,000 per trip from the Afghan border to the Iran border.
Quetta to Iran is the safest route for smuggled or trafficking people travelling from various parts of the country. Most people travel to Quetta by bus or train, and then they travel by bus to the Iranian border. Bus owners and drivers are also involved in trafficking and smuggling, the report said.
They clear the way from various security posts by saying they are in search of work. The route is considered to be the main means for people inside the country as well as pilgrims – Zaireen – travelling to Iran.
The report recommended strict implementation of laws dealing with illegal migrants and human trafficking. It said a comprehensive law must be introduced to address volatile cultural practices, such as the transgender guru chaila system, and addresses inhuman practices of tribal and feudal systems that are the primary sources of modern slavery and internal trafficking.
The FIA and law enforcement agencies should be trained to identify human trafficking and smuggling victims, and the government should set up a mechanism and budget to provide them legal assistance. Rehabilitation centres for victims should also be set up, the report said.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019