Pakistan, UK sign agreement for deportation of criminals and immigration offenders
n the first seven months of this year, 25,000 people illegally crossed into the UK. Most of these emigrants are from Albania, Afghanistan, Somalia, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Only 1.5 percent of them were from Pakistan.
A total of 2,165 Albanians arrived in the UK by small boats between January and June 2022. Despite the growing numbers, the small-boat arrivals are a fraction of the number of people heading to mainland Europe. Data from the UN’s refugee agency shows that at least 120,441 people arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean last year. In the first half of this year, more than half (51 percent) of small-boat arrivals were from three countries – Albania (18 percent), Afghanistan (18 percent) and Iran(15 percent).
Despite having a comparatively small number of illegal asylum seekers, Pakistan has signed an agreement for the deportation of criminals and immigration offenders from the UK to Pakistan.
Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the agreement. Thousands of Pakistanis awaiting the result of their asylum applications have objected to this move.Some legal experts too have expressed concern over the deal.
The agreement underlines both countries’ ‘ongoing commitment’ to tackle the issue of illegal migration and the significant threats it poses to both nations. The agreement also includes ongoing work to improve and expand UK-Pakistan law enforcement cooperation.
Patel has signed 15 immigration agreements with various countries. Pakistan, on the other hand, has signed its third such agreement with the UK for the deportation of Pakistanis. The first agreement was signed in August 2009 between the then interior minister late Rehman Malik and his British counterpart Alan Johnson. The two countries had agreed to the details of the deal during talks in London ahead of former president Asif Ali Zardari’s visit. The Pakistani diaspora had not welcomed the agreement.
The second agreement was signed in November 2019 between the permanent secretary of the UK’s Home Office, Matthew Rycroft, and then adviser to Pakistan’s PM on interior and accountability Shahzad Akbar. Through the agreement, Pakistan assured the UK that it will accept the return of illegal migrants who had no lawful basis to remain in the UK.
Ms Patel said in her statement on the occasion that she made no apology for removing dangerous foreign criminals and immigration offenders who “have no right to remain in the UK”. “The British public has quite rightly had enough of people abusing our laws and gaming the system, so we can’t remove them. I am proud to have signed with our Pakistani friends, shows the new plan for immigration in action and the government delivering,” she said.
Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the agreement. Thousands of Pakistanis awaiting the result of their asylum applications have objected to the move. Some legal experts too have expressed concern over the agreement.
Ms Patel also signed another agreement this year with Rwanda under which the east African nation will receive refugees deemed by the UK to have arrived illegally and therefore inadmissible under the new immigration rules.
However, the first deportation flight, due to take off on June 14, was grounded amid legal challenges. Several asylum seekers, the public and commercial services union and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid had challenged the legality of the Home Office policy. Court hearings are due in September and October.
Commenting on the recent agreement between Pakistan and the UK, Muhammad Waqas, a law expert in the UK, called it “futile and insincere”. He referred to the previous two agreements signed between Pakistan and the UK. He said that despite having an agreement, Pakistan remained unsuccessful in getting back offenders who allegedly committed crimes in or out of Pakistan. “Murder, hate speech and money laundering were proven in court but in vain. The agreement, perhaps, can be used against commoners living illegally in the UK even if they have never committed a crime,” he said.
“The UK is already regularly deporting those who are staying here illegally,” Muhammad Waqas said. He further said that the UK could not oust the people who had no right of appeal on their refusal cases. “The UK cannot ignore the victims of human rights violations. The Pakistani government are demanding several political leaders now living in the UK. The British government are operating with double standards. This will remain unpopular,” said Waqas.
Talking to The News on Sunday, Malik, a Pakistani origin man living in the UK with a refused asylum seeker status since 2010, said he had never committed a crime in the UK. “Our families were refused asylum. We have violated no law. We have just tried to earn our livelihoods and survive,” Malik said.
Malik said that many people from various countries were living with refusal status in the UK. “Their governments have not signed such an agreement. That is why they cannot be forcibly deported. Why does the Pakistani government not refuse to sign such agreements?” he asked.
The latest data shows that UK prisons currently have a population of approximately 90,900. Out of them, 35,255 are Christian, 13,724 Muslim, 329 Hindu, 491 Sikh, 1,481 Buddhist and 467 Jews. Foreign nationals make up 13 percent of the number and people from ethnic minorities 27 percent of the prison population.
Ms Patel is currently trying to sign another agreement with Albanian authorities for the deportation of Albanians. “It is shameful and absurd that so many enter the UK via small boats when their home country, Albania, is safe,” she has said.
The writer is a correspondent for Geo News, Daily Jang and The News in London