Deportees become victims at home

December 30, 2013 - 10:31:47 am
LAHORE: Sent home from Greece on board a special flight, Ishtiaq Ahmed was faced with a deportee’s second nightmare: “Will they put me behind bars?”

After the flight landed in Lahore, Ahmed felt so weak in the knees that he could barely stand up.

He feared being pounced upon by the officers of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and put in jail for eternity.

“Finally, I mustered up the courage and walked up to the immigration counter,” he says and recalls the horror befalling him as he heard the dreaded words. “ ‘You — you step aside’.

“The immigration official then looked at my passport and remarked:  ‘You are deportee, wait here’.”

That was the start of a long ordeal, Ahmed thought. “I was ready to be humiliated. Another official now called me in a rasping voice. It was like a police station and I was there begging them to let me go; I felt that they had the power to do so.

“I begged them for my freedom as I had already suffered a lot before getting deported for my illegal entry into Greece.”

What Ahmed got in return was a series of tough questions. The FIA men made him fill in a form detailing his stay in Greece. But they were more interested to know about the human smuggler who had overseen his illegal transportation to Greece.

They brusquely asked him if he was willing to testify against the smuggler if he was ever caught and then they did something totally against the run of play: They told the unsuccessful chaser of the European dream that he was free to go home — in Mandi Bahauddin.

Pakistan is a signatory to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) document which makes it mandatory to “treat deported persons as victims”.

Ahmed’s freedom upon his return home was thanks to that document but there are still complaints that Pakistan is far from fully meeting its obligations.

Recently the FIA headquarters issued a circular to the immigration staff at all airports of the country. It said the FIA personnel were to ensure that deported persons were treated as victims and were not detained.

Before Pakistan signed the IOM document a few years ago FIR could be registered against all deportees under Immigration Ordinance. Under the law, a deported person faces imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine. However, the FIA no more applies it to all deported persons.

Only the deported people who are found in possession of doctored travel documents are arrested and tried under the ordinance. Those who travel without any papers whatsoever sneaking away by the land route are set free as also those found with emergency travel documents on them.

The bearers of emergency documents are often those who had gone out on fake papers and had destroyed their forged passports etc after reaching the destination.

The policy may appear a bit strange, given that those caught attempting to leave the country on fake documents are given no concession.

Only at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, some 200 passengers were arrested this year for attempting to board flights on doctored documents. It seems that because no papers means no easy evidence, the FIA is more inclined to extend to this type of deported people the status of victims to avoid complicated legalities.

Greece is the favourite destination for Pakistanis. Only Lahore airport received over 2,000 deported persons (victims) this year.  Internews
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