WEB DESK: The ongoing civil war in Syria has devastated millions of lives, not only in that cursed land but also abroad in many other lands and in many different ways. One of the collateral victims of this conflict is Pakistan whose nationals working in other countries, particularly in Europe, are being profiled for forced repatriation.
They must vacate the space to be filled in by refugees from the Middle East conflict, albeit the fact that logic furnished for their repatriation in most of the cases is too flimsy to stand the test of honest scrutiny. This had continued for quite some time; only this year some 21,000 Pakistanis were repatriated by the European Union member-states. And to one’s utter disappointment the authorities in Islamabad were taking it lying down. There were no protestations and no recall to the 2010 agreement which binds the EU governments to justify forced repatriation of Pakistanis working in their countries.
This could have gone on indefinitely had the repatriation of a Pakistani from Italy on charges of terrorism – which given its alleged nexus with the Peshawar Army Public School massacre was thoroughly investigated and found concocted and totally baseless. After that, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali put his foot down, saying “no more unverified repatriations”.
A week after, the EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, was in Islamabad, and the two sides agreed to evolve a standard operating procedure (SOP) to regularise repatriation and re-admission of Pakistani deportees. As if the EU official was here on his own and his commitments had no sanctity, within a week of his departure from here, a plane landed in Islamabad airport carrying 49 deportees, only to fly back with more than half of its passengers who were refused admission because they had no papers to establish their Pakistani citizenship.
But there is many a slip between cup and lip. According to the position taken by the local EU office and diplomats of three countries – Greece, Bulgaria and Austria – from where these deportees were picked up, the travel documents of the deportees were duly verified by the concerned Pakistani embassies and that the verification-subject-to-CNIC is not part of the 2010 agreement.
That indeed is a tenable position, but it seemed to have cut no ice with the local authorities who insisted that until the SOP comes into implementation or force, the agreement stands suspended. And then what was that pushed the Greek authorities to send in post-haste a planeload of illegal immigrants. Pakistan is open to re-admitting those charged with provable evidence of their involvement in terrorism, but for others’ deportation there has to be some agreed procedure. There is the need for the two sides to have a serious dialogue on this issue and come up with a solution which has a clear tilt towards an individual’s basic human rights.
The local authorities must explain how they deal with the complex issue of computerised national identity cards because there are hundreds of thousands of foreigners who have succeeded in procuring Pakistani identity cards. One is therefore in doubt if all the 30 who were sent back were not Pakistanis. To see one’s land and not able to touch it, what could be more agonising. The sad saga is that chickens are coming home to roost. For too long, the human smugglers in Pakistan were allowed to prosper by selling fake visas and for too long the guardians on the exit doors acted in connivance.
That the interior ministry is now active against the human smugglers is laudable but its “efficiency” hardly heals the wounds inflicted by the criminal human smugglers on the national fabric. This is also undeniable that quite a few EU countries were in need of cheap labour and younger blood to sustain their economies, and therefore remained administratively benign to the flux of illegal immigrants. Lapses have been committed by all. The criticality of the situation demands that instead of taking a hard line on this issue and accusing one another of failing to perform their obligations, the two sides should give it a fresh look and help work out a viable way forward. It is essentially a human issue and needs to be looked at accordingly.