LAHORE - Saudi authorities deported 59 Pakistanis whose stay was illegal or they were allegedly involved in begging and other crimes, said immigration officials at the Lahore airport yesterday.

The Saudi authorities kept them in jails for three months and then sent them back to Pakistan through flight SV-728. The immigration authorities let the deportees go home after preliminary probe. The story does not end here. In 2013, an FIA deputy director, posted at the Lahore airport, sent a report to the Interior Ministry, highlighting the activities of such people in Saudi Arabia and the way they were bringing a bad name to Pakistan. The statistics available with The Nation revealed that only during March 2013, about 100 Pakistani beggars were deported from Saudi Arabia on emergency passports after they were arrested for overstay and being involved in beggary. All of them confessed during the investigations they had gone to Saudi Arabia to earn money through begging.

Seventy-seven “beggar-pilgrims” were deported to Lahore alone. Of them, 29 arrived on March 1, 30 on March 19, 18 on March 21 and 20 on April 13. Their confessional statements were recorded by the immigration authorities.

According to sources, they told the FIA that they had been sent to Saudi Arabia by one Ehtesham, a travel agent, for the purpose of begging. The deportees included men and women. Some of them were also jailed in Saudi Arabia before being sent back to Pakistan.

An Umrah visa is valid only for a month. The overstayers are deported and their travel agents fined by the authorities. According to an official, these “beggar-pilgrims” were all able-bodied. When contacted, Assistant Director Immigration Ali Imam Zaidi said it was a routine matter and after every third or fourth day, Saudi government was sending 50 to 100 deportees by its national airline. He believed Saudi economy was passing through turmoil and the KSA government was sending Pakistanis back for their involvement in begging or working against Umrah visa rules.