LAHORE - The Federal Investigation Agency has proposed to Interior Ministry amendments in immigration laws to nab student visa consultants involved in human smuggling under the garb of consultancy, reveal documents available with The Nation.

“It has been observed that a considerable number of complaints are received against Consultants, Tour Operators involved in immigration facilitation of people for the purpose of Study/Education Immigration, Business and Visit visas etc. Most of the individuals companies have been found involved in defrauding and looting innocent people under the garb of such visa categories,” according to the documents.

Likewise complaints against Haj, Umra, Ziarat Vias’s operators were also received from general public to the Agency.

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There are no sufficient laws to nab such human smugglers who con innocent people especially the students seeking admission abroad for higher education, said an FIA officer.

On Monday, three complaints against such visa consultants were received in FIA Anti Human Trafficking Circle (AHTC) from three different students seeking admission in UK and Canada.

Two students who have done their FSc belonged to Sahiwal while one student of Aitchison College, resident of Mandi Bahaud Din, lodged complaints against two different visa consultants.

An FIA officer seeking anonymity said that due to insufficient laws regarding visa consultants, the accused got relief from courts. He also quoted example of renowned consultant Malik Asim, owner of Future Concern, who looted more than 500 million rupees from different people in the name of visa consultancy.

Keeping in view the increased trend of fraudalent activties and human smuggling by visa consultants, tour operators and travel agents, certain amendments have been proposed in Emigration Ordinance 1979.

Sources in FIA told The Nation that a meeting with all stakeholders - Deputy Director Protector Office Lahore, Deputy Controller Department of Tourists Services Punjab Lahore, Representatives/Focal Persons of Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association (POEPA) and Travel Agents Association of Pakistan (TAAP) - was held in the past. All the participants unanimously agreed and appreciated with the proposed amendments in Emigration Ordinance 1979, the sources added.

The Emigration Ordinance 1979 deals specifically with the affairs of immigration for the purpose of employment self-employment, only. Agents/human traffickers/smugglers have ‘changed their modus operandi with the passage of time. The issue has thoroughly been analysed on the basis of complaints interrogation of deportees and it has been found out that the intending emigrants are sent abroad on such visa categories as business study, immigration, Umra. Ziarat etc.

The human traffickers have established businesses under the title of ‘Consultancy Services’, ‘Travel & Tour Operators’ etc. Emigration Ordinance 1979 lacks stringent provisions to nab such offenders/culprits, causing hardships to the complainants/general public. Following proposals were suggested for amendment in Emigration Ordinance 1979, a document said. Section 2 deals with definition clauses of the Ordinance.’ Presently Section 2(l) (d) defines that “depart” and ‘departure” means the departure out of Pakistan of any person for employment or self-employment by any means.

FIA has proposed that in this section, words employment or self-employment may be excluded and following amended clause may be substituted ‘depart and departure” means the departure out of Pakistan of any person for any purpose and by any means. Clause (vi) of Section 27 of the Emigration Ordinance 1979 may also be omitted to cover the scams, in which agents swindled the people on the pretext of Haj, Umra and Ziarat visas.

As immigration/Study/Education, Consultants/Consultancy Companies are not registered with any regulatory authority, it is also proposed that all such individuals/firms/companies be registered with the Interior Ministry.