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Tragedy in Greece

January 23, 2013

THE murder of a Pakistani in Greece over the weekend focuses attention on the phenomenon that is the Pakistani diaspora. In general, overseas Pakistanis are an asset for the nation. The billions of dollars they send home each year is not the only benefit for the country; of equal if not greater advantage are the skills they learn in the developed countries, and though a majority of them choose to settle abroad, some do return to enrich the country with their knowledge and experience in diverse fields ranging from fast food to information technology to nuclear science. They also happen to be an asset for host countries, especially in oil-rich countries, where they are to be found in every department of life. The dark side of it is the kind of tragedy that occurred over the weekend in Greece: in short, illegal immigration.

Pakistani emigrants without proper papers try to enter Europe via two routes: either to Sicily via Libya or to Greece via Iran and Turkey. The hardships they are likely to suffer — hiding in containers, trekking for miles in cruel weather, evading arrests — do not seem to deter them, even if their lives are at risk. They also have some knowledge of what would happen to them if they are arrested: few European governments deport them. If arrested, they are given legal help, and when on bail they earn without a work permit. In most cases, they are eventually allowed to stay on. Pakistan is not the only country that exports illegal immigrants. Many countries fall in this category — Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, India and China besides a large number of African countries. Tightening border controls is hardly the solution; the real and only solution is to educate and equip Pakistanis, remove poverty and create a prosperous society.