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KARACHI: Steps planned to register illegal aliens

January 16, 2009


KARACHI, Jan 15: A meeting between officials of the Sindh home department and the National Alien Registration Authority is scheduled for Saturday in the wake of reports of increasing lawlessness at the New Sabzi Mandi, where cheap labour (in the form of illegal immigrants) is abundantly available.

In Sindh, out of 1.5 million illegal immigrants, over one million reside in Karachi alone. Hardly 15 to 20 per cent of the immigrants have registered themselves with the National Alien Registration Authority so far, a source at the home department pointed out.

He added that it was difficult to keep track of the number of illegal immigrants as they kept changing residences when they changed jobs. Legally, no firm is allowed to hire a person who is not registered with NARA, but contractors operating near factories, construction businesses and other employers who require unskilled manpower continue to hire the aliens, as they are a source of cheap labour. Whenever a drive is launched to rope in illegal aliens, the protection racket has managed to foil it.

At the scheduled meeting, the proposal mooted earlier by NARA Director-General Gul Muhammad Rind, is likely to be tabled by the home department. The proposal calls for setting up NARA offices at every police station located in labour intensive industrial areas in the province so that random checks of the workforce could expedite the enrolment of aliens.

The sporadic violence in Karachi at the end of last year, in which over 40 persons were killed and properties worth million of rupees were gutted, was attributed by some political analysts to these aliens, who were used to advance their vested political interests amongst their ethnic communities.

The source at the home department, who did not want to be identified because of the nature of his job, told Dawn that in the country there are aliens from 76 countries, mostly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Burma.

He said whenever the police had launched a campaign to deport illegal aliens after shifting them to camps, political pressures had caused the drive to be abandoned, as influential people in whose constituency they are settled intervened. These illegal aliens, in turn, were helped by the political forces in getting ID cards, in order to exploit their votes or to back their own supported candidate, said the source.

Many illegal aliens who fear deportation avoid being registered with NARA, and if caught by police are often ‘rescued’ by outlaws, who then enrol them in their own criminal activities, including cross border smuggling, drug peddling, robberies, and kidnapping for ransom, a survey report pointed out.

Sometimes they are also used to create law and order issues on matters such as frequent power outages, water crisis, protest rallies and during unrest from factory lockouts.

Following three days violence last November in the metropolis, which was termed an ‘ethnic riot’ by vested interests, President Asif Ali Zardari had ordered the authorities to expedite the process of registration of illegal aliens in the province.

The meeting fixed for Saturday is set to take certain drastic measures, including a cut-off date to have all illegal aliens registered with NARA, after the expiry of which a campaign would be launched against unregistered aliens so that they could be hauled up for deportation to the country of their origin, the source added.