LONDON: The British government has signed a new agreement with Pakistan which will see the return of foreign criminals and immigration offenders from London to Islamabad.
Home Secretary Priti Patel made the announcement on Wednesday after signing the new deal with Pakistan’s Interior Secretary, Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, and the Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, Moazzam Ahmad Khan. A Pakistan High Commission spokesman told The News that it’s a reciprocal agreement and applies equally to both countries.
This is the fifth returns agreement the UK Home Office has signed in 15 months under its “New Plan for Immigration”. The UK has signed similar agreements with India, Nigeria and Albania. The implementation of the new policy will not be on those Pakistanis who are dual nationals – carrying both Pakistani and the British identities. The new policy, diplomats have told The News, will affect those Pakistani passport holders who are either involved in immigration offences or organised crimes, including sex grooming, paedophilia.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I make no apology for removing dangerous foreign criminals and immigration offenders who have no right to remain in the UK. The British public have quite rightly had enough of people abusing our laws and gaming the system so we can’t remove them. This agreement, which I am proud to have signed with our Pakistani friends, shows the New Plan for Immigration in action and the government delivering. Our new Borders Act will go further and help end the cycle of last-minute claims and appeals that can delay removals.”
The Home Office said in a statement that Pakistan nationals make up the seventh largest number of foreign criminals in prisons in England and Wales, totalling nearly 3% of the foreign national offender population. Since January 2019, the UK has removed 10,741 foreign national offenders globally (to year ending December 2021).
The agreement underlines both countries’ ongoing commitment to tackling the issue of illegal migration and significant threats it poses to both nations, said the Home Office. The agreement also includes ongoing work to improve and expand the UK-Pakistani law enforcement cooperation.
A Pakistani diplomat who took part in negotiation with the UK government shared that UK’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner had been pushing for the agreement for quite some time. He shared that the UK has been sending foreign criminals to Pakistan for about 10 years under the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) and individual case basis but this is the first time a formal state-to-state level agreement has been signed.
When asked what was in it for Pakistan, the diplomat said that Pakistan has asked the UK govt to relax its visa regime towards students and visitors. The diplomat said the UK govt has agreed to look into this matter.
However, UK Immigration lawyers raised several objections on the deal between Pakistan and the UK and termed it as favouring the UK. Mohammad Amjad, a well-known immigration expert, told The News that Pakistan does not have the infrastructure to support the convicts once they are back in Pakistan. The criminals being returned cannot be held under Pakistan law and no restrictions can be imposed on them by Pakistani authorities.
He asked: “One must question just how Pakistan will keep an eye on these criminals and the risks that they will pose to the public. After all, it is because these individuals are a risk to the UK public that they are being deported to Pakistan. The UK has consistently and selfishly refused to share information about offenders, their offences and the risks these individuals will pose inside Pakistan. The Pakistani authorities will therefore have no idea regarding the nature of the risks these deportees will pose. Hence there is a real risk of a repeat of the paedophile case of Sohail Ayaz.”
Labour Party councillor and Immigration lawyer Moazzam Ali Sandhu said it appeared that the agreement was signed without Pakistan securing guarantees. He said that the Home Office press release mentioned that it was a “reciprocal” agreement but it fell short of explaining what was Pakistan getting out of it. He said the agreement appeared to be a retrogressive step for Pakistan as it agreed to take back criminals who have spent their most or entire life in the UK and has committed crimes in the UK.
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