Foreign Affairs Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi has said on Friday that out of 10,811 total Pakistanis imprisoned abroad, around 3,000 Pakistani nationals are detained in prisons of Saudia Arabia.

In a written reply to the National Assembly (NA), he said that the majority of Pakistanis have been detained on drug related charges. Out of the total imprisoned, around 45 per cent have been detained on drug smuggling, 15 per cent on theft, 12 per cent on forgery, eight per cent on immoral crimes, 3 per cent in murder, 2 per cent in brawl, while 15 per cent have been detained on other charges.

The minister said that Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.6 million Pakistani expats and only those who overstay or get involved in illegal activities or have travelled to GCC countries on Azad visa face problems.

He said, “Saudi Arabia’s 70 per cent economy is based on oil and due to slump in oil prices and political tensions in the region, several development projects have either been shelved or curtailed by the Saudi government. Increase in Iqama fees, introduction of dependent levy, VAT, increase in prices of POL and electricity have increased the cost of living exponentially for residents in KSA. The implementation of Saudisation policy has prevented expats, including Pakistanis from entering many professions.

He said that during 2016 and 2017, some construction sector companies including Saudi Oger, and Saad construction defaulted due to economic slump and failed to pay wages to workers from various countries including 9, 360 Pakistani workers. The workers were stuck up without salaries and expired Iqamas. The missions facilitated the final exit and free tickets of 4,810 workers. Coordination with different companies was done to relocate the workers and more than 4,548 were facilitated in transferring to new employers within the Kingdom.

Answering another question, quoting a UNODC report ‘Global Study on the Smuggling of Migrants’, launched in June 2018 in Vienna, Minister said in 2016 alone, a minimum of 2.5 million migrant were smuggled globally along different routes, generating USD 5.5-7 billion in criminal proceeds. Among others, globally South Asia is one of the main areas of origin and most popular route is Afghanistan to Pakistan/lran-Turkey and then onwards to Europe through the “East Mediterranean route”, which is turkey to Greece. In this regard, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta are identified as “transit cities”. The study also underlines that in addition to Afghan refugees/nationals, many Pakistani nationals also use this land route. He said during 2018 alone 30,000 Pakistani irregular migrants apprehended in Turkey.