Understanding on deportation issue reached with EU

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the European Union have agreed to sort out differences over the issue of readmission of illegal immigrants.

In a statement issued here on Sunday, Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan praised the EU for understanding Pakistan’s concerns over implementation of the EU Readmission Agreement (Eura) suspended over three months ago.

The broad-based understanding between the EU and Pakistan was reportedly reached at a recent meeting of the Joint Readmission Committee (JRC) in Brussels.

The interior minister and the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, had decided in November last year to hold the JRC meeting.

Chaudhry Nisar had shared Pakistan’s serious concerns with Mr Avramopoulos over the loopholes in implementation of Eura which, according to him, had seriously undermined fundamental rights and, in some cases, the dignity of Pakistani immigrants and refugees. The minister had stressed the need for immediately resolving the issue.

On Pakistan’s concern over people being deported without due verification, the EU has now agreed to the verification process proposed by the Ministry of Interior and promised to ensure deportation strictly in line with the readmission accord, immigration laws and procedures acceptable to Pakistan, says a handout issued by the ministry.

It says that the EU has welcomed the standard operating procedures developed by Pakistan for transparent and speedy processing of verification applications as well as Pakistan’s initiative of developing an electronic platform for the issuance of ‘Emergency Travel Documents’ to verified deportees.

Appreciating the newly developed system of interrogation by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency with a view to taking action against human traffickers and smugglers, the EU has agreed that a 15-day prior information in case of deportees through chartered flights and three days in case of commercial flights will be shared with Pakistan to help FIA to make necessary arrangements for their reception and interrogation.

In response to Pakistan’s demand, the EU acknowledged the need for sharing the evidence beforehand in cases where a deportee is accused of criminal or terrorist activity.

The JRC also discussed EU’s broader engagement with Pakistan, including legal migration and mobility as well as reintegration of migrants sent back from the European Union.

The meeting ended with a commitment to enhance cooperation in managing current migration and security issues in order to take stronger action to meet the challenge.

Chaudhry Nisar said that immigration was posing problems not only for the EU countries but was also a source of embarrassment and concern for Pakistan. He said EU’s understanding of Islamabad’s concerns would provide a good platform for Pakistan and the EU to work together with greater coordination in this area.

The minister had announced suspension of Eura last year alleging that the accord was being “misused”.

The agreement reached in 2010 was meant to establish, on the basis of reciprocity, rapid and effective procedures for identification and orderly return of people illegally staying in a country back to their country.

“We will not allow any plane carrying deportees (under the agreement) unless we verify their nationality status and get details about the charge and evidence against them,” Chaudhry Nisar had said. Without naming any country, he had stated that two powerful European countries were sending Pakistanis back on “baseless terrorism charges”.

“Those who give lectures on fundamental rights to us should respect fundamental rights of Pakistanis,” he had said, adding that since Britain was following the agreement in letter and spirit the accord with it would remain intact.

The minister had also warned that airlines which carried deportees back to Pakistan without his ministry’s permission or without travel documents would have to pay unspecified fines.

In December last year immigration authorities at various airports of the country refused to accept over 50 migrants at the Islamabad Airport for not having proper travel documents. All ‘illegal deportees’ were sent back to European countries, including the UK and Greece, from where they had been deported.

The FIA claims that it has also deported more than 160 foreigners who had entered Pakistan illegally during the past one year.

On the directives of the interior minister, the FIA launched a countrywide crackdown on human traffickers to control the flow of immigrants, especially to Europe.

Pakistan also instructed its diplomatic missions in European capitals to demand evidence of a potential crime when host countries sought to deport illegal immigrants being held on terror charges to Pakistan.