ISLAMABAD - The Federal Investigation Agency has informed the Supreme Court that around 6,767 illegal Pakistani immigrants entered Europe via Iran and Turkey in 2017.

Before the top court, the Agency, however, claimed to have busted 87 gangs and arrested 1,412 land route agents in the Central Punjab which were part of transnational network of human trafficking.

FIA Director General Bashir Memon, in pursuance of the top court’s orders, submitted a report regarding the course of actions to curb the menace of human trafficking after the incidents of killing of 20 persons in Turbat, Balochistan.

In 2017, the Supreme Court had taken a suo motu notice over the killing of 20 persons in Turbat district of Balochistan. All deceased, mostly from Gujranwala, had reached Western Balochistan to cross over illegally into Iran and make their way to Europe via Turkey and Greece.  Although they were killed by the terrorists due to their ethnicity, the incident highlighted the scourge of migrant smuggling and human trafficking.

Human smuggling is the third most lucrative transnational organised crime after arms and drug trafficking estimated at $32 billion per year and 27 million victims worldwide mostly from developing world.

“Pakistan with its huge youth bulge, unemployment and poverty (29 per cent under USD 1/day), is a victim of this transnational crime. Some 6,767 illegal Pakistani immigrants entered Europe via Iran and Turkey in 2017 which is a challenging number, although small when compared with illegal influx to Europe from other developing countries,” the report stated.

Some 900km long Pak-Iran Border with only two notified posts at Taftan and Gobd (not operational) contribute to the challenge of securing this border through Inter Agency Task Force (IATF).

The report stated that FIA launched an intensive action to identify the migrant smugglers who were in contact with the family of these deceased before their intended illegal migration/smuggling.

The FIA, according to its report, continued an extensive and sustained operation against gangs involved in human smuggling in the area of Central Punjab, the hub of migrant smuggling.

Regarding the actions so far taken after the incident, the FIA informed the court that Additional Director General Immigration Wing FIA has been authorised to liaise directly with the Immigration Liaison Officers (ILOs) posted in foreign embassies and consulates in Islamabad and share information in the areas of human smuggling.

Additional DG Immigration Wing has also been authorised to maintain a direct liaison with International Organisations, law enforcement/ immigration agencies to tackle organised international crime, it added.

These agencies include United Nations (UN), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), International Centre for Migration and Policy Development (ICMPD), International Organisation of Migration (IOM), International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), International Labour Organisation (ILO), European border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX).

Besides, a Composite Circle based at Gujrat to be established which would look after the migrant source districts of Mandi Bahauddin and Hafizabad besides Gujrat itself, it said.

The report stated that a summary for approval of the Prime Minister was initiated in April 2018 which includes setting up the Composite FIA Circle based at Gujrat under Additional Director FIA.

“Following the summary being moved, the PM sanctioned 17 posts for the Circle and after approval of budget Rs80,298,740 annually the process of operationalisation will be initiated.”

Similarly, a summary for Special Task Force comprising FIA, Intelligence Bureau and the Punjab Police including Special Branch has also been sent to the PM for approval and he authorised the Ministry of Interior to decide the modalities and create this IATF, the report stated.

The FIA also mentioned its intentions, in the report, to launch awareness campaign on a pro-bono basis in collaboration with NGOs and international partners like UNODC and others.

Initial work on designing the campaign has been finalized in collaboration with UNODC and this campaign will be launched in May/ June of this year in Central Punjab and other affected areas of the country.

During the pendency of the suo motu regarding killing of 20 persons in Turbat, a meeting of IATF was convened by Additional DG Immigration Wing FIA to sensitise the stakeholders on greater cooperation to curb the human trafficking.

“Passports of illegal migrants deported back to Pakistan from other countries to be cancelled and the violators themselves blacklisted for a specific period of time. In this regard a standing order has been issued by DG FIA to blacklist the passports of illegal migrants,” it added.

The SOP of standing order includes procedure for collecting the particulars of deportees and transmitting the same to Directorate General of Immigration and Passport (IMPASS) and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for blacklisting for a specified period of time.

The SOP for blacklisting the passport of illegal passport defines the period (6 months to 5 years). The categorisation for blacklisting the passport of illegal passport includes illegal overstay, cancellations of visa or any type of residency by mis-declaration.

The categorisation also includes those blacklisted held criminally liable or persecuted by any foreign government, illegal exit from Pakistan or illegal entry into any foreign country, entry refused/ deported or offloaded/ intercepted in Pakistan on charges of using suspicious counterfeit or forged travel documents or attempting to cross a border illegally without valid travel documents, Entry refused/ deported or offloaded on charges of impersonation and for involvement in any of the crimes related to migrant smuggling or human trafficking.

The FIA further pointed out that a Bill to Prevent Smuggling of Migrants has also been passed by the National Assembly and is presently in the Senate for enactment.