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Over 17m have gone abroad illegally since’09

November 24, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Nov 24: During the last about three years, over 17 million Pakistanis went abroad illegally in search of employment.

According to documents available to Dawn, in 2009 as many as 4.3 million people left the country illegally. In 2010, the number reached 4.5 million touching the five million mark in 2011.

Till August 31, 2012, about 3.4 million Pakistanis had migrated to other countries without legal documents.

It may be noted that after 9/11, the criteria for issuing visa to Pakistanis were made stricter by the western countries.

On the other hand, unemployment and financial crises have forced many people to go abroad in search of greener pastures.

An officer of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) requesting not to be identified told Dawn that human trafficking was the biggest illegal business all over the world. “Smuggling of drugs and weapons is on the second and third number,” he maintained.

He said there were three routes used for human smuggling. The 905-km-long Pakistan-Iran border is the most frequented for human trafficking. After crossing into Iran, these people move on to Turkey and then enter Europe, he said.

The second route is through the Middle East. Many people go to the Middle East on fake documents. From there, they travel to Europe on fake documents and apply for asylum.

The third route used for human trafficking is through Russia. People manage to reach Kazakhstan and then enter Bulgaria and central Europe, said the FIA officer.

He said there were different mafias and groups who dealt in human trafficking and had contacts with each other. After crossing a border, one group hands over the people to the other group for transportation to another country.

Farooq Ahmed, who works as a tailor in Rawalpindi, said: “In 2003, I paid Rs800,000 to an agent to send me to Germany.

It was decided that as soon as I will reach there, my family will pay the agent another Rs500,000.”

He added: “After about two months when we reached the German border, our container was caught as some of the people inside got suffocated and started banging the wall of the container. We were arrested and then deported to Pakistan,” he said.

Mohammad Usman, a resident of Mandi Bahauddin, said in October 2011 he crossed the Iranian border but was caught and later along with 25 other people handed over to Pakistani forces. “My uncle got me released and brought me back,” he said.

According to the documents, Mohammad Rafaqat was sent to Uganda by an agent in April 2012. On September 25, 2012, he was arrested by the Uganda police under the charge of kidnapping a woman.

Qaiser Masood of Sumandri tehsil in the district of Faisalabad told Dawn that Rafaqat was a resident of his village. “He paid Rs240,000 to the agent to get the Ugandan visa.

When he reached there, the agent demanded another Rs260,000.”

He said Rafaqat’s poor family had sold their cattle to send him abroad but they could not arrange the additional amount.

So the agent got him implicated in the kidnapping case in Uganda, he alleged.

Anwar Virk, the director general of the FIA, in his statement to the Senate standing committee on interior said they had been using all resources to stop human trafficking.

“Unfortunately, people who are caught in different countries and deported back do not give information about the agents.

This is because the agents promise them that they will try thrice to send them abroad without charging an extra amount, he added.