ISLAMABAD: Pakistan yesterday refused to accept 30 migrant deportees from three European Union (EU) states, causing escalating the tension between Islamabad and EU with both sides making contradictory claims. Pakistan refused to re-admit these migrant deportees from Greece, Bulgaria and Austria saying they were sent to the country illegally and in violation of international laws. This has happened only a week after the EU Commissioner held high level talks with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali to settle a dispute over forced deportations to Pakistan.

The country few weeks ago had suspended re-admission (deportation) treaty with the EU (excluding UK), signed in 2010, claiming that some EU countries were deporting migrants illegally to Pakistan – without proper verification of their citizenship from local authorities and in some case falsely accusing people of involvement in terrorism. The interior ministry in a statement said Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the directions of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday (yesterday) refused to disembark 30 deportees from a chartered plane of Greece after Pakistani authorities could not verify their citizenship and credentials.

But the European Union Delegation to Pakistan rebutted the claim saying that “an authorisation of landing was given by the Pakistani authorities for December 3” and Pakistanis embassies in the three EU countries had issued them travelling documents. In a statement it said that it was the duty of Pakistani authorities to verify the CNIC numbers of those illegal migrants who received travel documents from the Pakistani embassies as “EU member states do not have access to this (Pakistan’s) internal information”. The FIA initially did not allow disembarking all 49 deportees and the crew on board the chartered flight at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIP). The latter verified the credentials of 19 individuals and allowed them to get down the plane. The remaining 30 deportees were sent back to the Greece through the same flight, the interior ministry statement said. Out of these 49 deportees, 39 were deported from Greece and10 from Austria and Bulgaria. While almost all (29) of the 30 people who were sent back were sent from Greece.

The statement quoting interior minister said, “Any person deported to Pakistan without verification of his/her credentials from Pakistani authorities would not be re-admitted and sent back through the same flight.” The minister said that an EU country (Greece) violated Pakistani laws after the finalisation of all issues with the EU Commissioner in this regard. He said such violation by any state would not be allowed at any cost. Some countries have unfortunately failed to understand our resolve to stop this immoral, inhuman and illegal method of deportation, he concluded.

Initially, the names of 61 persons from the three concerned countries were transmitted to the Pakistani authorities having been identified and given travel documents by the respective Pakistani embassies in the three European countries, she said in a statement issued for media. After reception of the full list of names and passport numbers, the interior ministry informed that only the ones for which the CNIC number was additionally known would be admitted, the statement of EU Delegation to Pakistan said, claiming that this requirement is not part of the EU-Pakistan Readmission Agreement, which refers to travel documents issued by Pakistani authorities.

It was hoped that the Pakistani authorities will verify the CNIC numbers of the illegal migrants who received travel documents from the Pakistan embassies. “Obviously, EU member states do not have access to this internal information - only Pakistan has,” the statement said. “50 persons were finally onboard of the flight, but only 19 have been admitted (those for which Pakistani passport and CNIC number were available). The others are the ones labelled as “unverified”, but those persons have been provided with a travel document by the Embassy of Pakistan and the list of names had been sent to the Pakistani authorities earlier, providing sufficient time to the relevant Pakistani authorities to find the missing CNIC numbers for the returnees,” the EU delegation said.

The delegation said “this case illustrates the need to improve the implementation of the EU-Pakistan Readmission Agreement” as discussed by EU Commissioner Avramopoulos and Pakistan’s interior minister on November 23. The two sides are committed to working, at technical level, to find best solutions to differences between the EU and Pakistan regarding the interpretation of certain clauses of the agreement and to some practical problems with its implementation. They agreed to work towards solving these differences within a reasonable timeframe of a few months, the statement concluded.

A few weeks ago, Interior Minister Ch Nisar while suspending the re-admission treaty had said Pakistan will not accept any deportee without verification of its Pakistani citizenship. He had also said that Pakistan would not allow any country to label its innocent citizens as terrorists. He had announced that around 90,000 people were deported to Pakistan only this year (2015). After this, the interior ministry had asked the Pakistani mission abroad not to issue travel documents for any deportee unless the ministry and National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) verified his/ her Pakistani citizenship.