UK, Pakistan finalise accord to repatriate illegal migrants

Published November 20, 2021
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Shahzad Akbar said that it took a year and a half of inter-ministerial meetings between the two countries to finalise the agreement. — APP/File
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Shahzad Akbar said that it took a year and a half of inter-ministerial meetings between the two countries to finalise the agreement. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Friday finalised negotiations on a bilateral readmissions agreement with the UK under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif could also be repatriated for staying illegally in Britain.

Earlier in August, Mr Sharif had filed an appeal with the British immigration tribunal after the country’s Home Department refused to extend his stay in the UK on medical grounds any further.

To reach a new arrangement after Brexit, the permanent secretary of the UK’s Home Office, Matthew Rycroft, paid a two-day visit to Pakistan that was capped off on Thursday with finalisation of an agreement to tackle illegal migration.

Mr Rycroft and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Shahzad Akbar finalised the negotiations on UK-Pakistan Readmissions Agreement, which would ensure the return of illegal migrants who had no lawful basis to remain in the country.

Unlike past practice, UK will now share data of people being repatriated

A statement issued by the British High Commission in Islamabad said it had been decided that the agreement would be presented to the Pakistani federal cabinet in the coming weeks to be implemented by the end of the year, subject to the cabinet’s approval.

The agreement would enable the sharing of criminal records between the UK and Pakistani authorities to support effective law enforcement cooperation between the two countries.

The high commission said the UK was committed to working with Pakistan to develop an effective partnership on migration as part of a deep and mutually beneficial relationship.

During his visit, Mr Rycroft also spoke about the UK Home Office’s new immigration system that would level the global playing field to those wishing to travel to the UK. Pakistani students would benefit from new graduate routes providing them an opportunity to enter into skilled roles in the UK job market, the high commission said.

Shahzad Akbar told Dawn that it took a year and a half of inter-ministerial meetings between the two countries to finalise the agreement. Previously, the British government did not share data and other records of people being repatriated to Pakistan.

“Under the new agreement, the British authorities will share such information,” he added, citing an example of people charged with sexual offences and deported to Pakistan, with data of their offences and other critical information being shared with Pakistani authorities.

Under the new agreement, those whose visas had expired, who had overstayed illegally and who were charged as sex offenders to mention some, would be repatriated to Pakistan and their details shared, the adviser explained.

In December 2020, a chartered flight carrying Pakistani immigrants from London landed in Islamabad, nearly two months after it was refused permission at the last minute by the government on Oct 20.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2021

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