Migrants from Pakistan prefer jails abroad to returning home, moot told

Updated November 09, 2019

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The FIA’s figures of Pakistani immigrants awaiting repatriation from Turkey differed from the numbers given by foreign ministry. — AFP/File
The FIA’s figures of Pakistani immigrants awaiting repatriation from Turkey differed from the numbers given by foreign ministry. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Most illegal Pakistani immigrants prefer to stay jailed and do menial jobs in the hope to attain legal status abroad instead of opting to return home, the foreign affairs ministry informed a parliamentary committee on Friday.

“They are mostly asylum seekers, who have torn up their passports and despite facing extreme hardship in jails, refuse voluntary repatriation or any assistance from Pakistani missions,” claimed Syed Zahid Raza from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Develop­ment.

The official was particularly talking about the estimated 4,000 Pakistanis jailed in Jungle Migrants Camp at Vucjak, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The camp is some 400 kilometres away from the Pakistani mission.

The committee had met to discuss human trafficking, which its members believed was rising, causing embarrassment to the country. Members had reason to believe that travel agencies were involved in human trafficking and directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take legal action. Some 400 human trafficking cases had been sent by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis to the FIA for investigation, the committee was told.

Mr Raza told the committee that the Bosnian government was not well funded and did not have the resources to look after the inmates. The exact number of Pakistani immigrants there was still not confirmed.

“Most of them are waiting for any opportunity to make it into mainland Europe. Only few of them are availing the voluntary return option,” he said.

Similarly, members were informed that an estimated 50,000 Pakistani immigrants were awaiting repatriation from Turkey. Some 20,000 may already have returned, said FIA director Syed Farid Ali.

The FIA’s figures of Pakistani immigrants awaiting repatriation from Turkey differed from the numbers given by foreign ministry. The FIA said there were some 30,000 Pakistanis stranded in Turkey.

Chairman of the committee Hilalur Rehman argued that the members had been receiving complaints about Pakistanis being stranded abroad and in need of assistance.

“Many licensed travel agencies are involved in human trafficking, selling individuals to gangs abroad who force immigrants to do jobs on meagre salaries,” he said.

He directed the ministry to offer help to Pakistanis, especially those jailed in Bosnia. “They are Pakistanis and it is the duty of government departments concerned to look after them and bring them home safely,” Mr Rehman said.

The committee directed the FIA to lodge FIRs against travel agents involved in human trafficking.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2019