Pakistan plays crucial role in illegal migration and human trafficking to West

Pakistan has always been a major source of illegal migration to Western countries, and it has seen a spike in recent times thanks to the burgeoning economic crisis in the country. Similarly, it is a major hub for human trafficking as hundreds of thousands of Pakistani, especially, women and children are trafficked across international borders. It is not just Pakistanis but refugees from southern and south- east Asia too are smuggled to the west by Pakistan-based mafias and criminal gangs.

These activities now have posed security threats to the US and several European countries. The generosity shown by these countries in providing shelter appears to be turning against them now. Illegal Pakistani migrants have been found responsible for spreading religious extremism and carrying out terror activities in the West. Major terror attacks such as the 9/11, London bombing, Madrid train attack, Barcelona attack, and the fatal attack at Charlie Hebdo in France were carried out by people who migrated from Pakistan.

According to National Legal Incubation Centre, which is supported by US Mission Pakistan, around 30,000 to 40,000 Pakistanis attempt to entre Europe illegally every year. France has witnessed illegal migration by hundreds of Pakistani. In 2019, French authorities arrested 19 Pakistanis, who were hiding inside a truck.France and other European countries have expressed concerns over illegal Pakistani migrants thanks to the religious extremism being shown by them. In 2021, Spanish police busted a human smuggling racket that was sending Pakistani people to different Europe countries illegally.

There are around 120,000 Pakistanis living in Italy at present. Mixed Migration Centre, a Europe-based research group, revealed that 88 percent of Pakistani people who arrived in Italy recently used a smuggler to cross borders. European Parliament Member Dominique Bilde said Pakistan was involved in the sale of European Union passports and visas to people with criminal backgrounds, which posed a serious security. “We have seen, Pakistan is the leader in fake passports and fake documents,” said Bilde, further slamming Pakistan for utilising international aid for fomenting terror.

Religious extremism, military high-handedness, political instability, natural disasters, food shortage, rising unemployment, conflict and violence have forced millions of Pakistanis to flee the country and find shelter in prosperous Western countries. They resorted to whichever options were available to migrate, mostly, through illegal means. United Nations has called Pakistan a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking and smuggling in persons.

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) said human trafficking in Pakistan was widespread. “Pakistan’s human smuggling market is also flourishing, as many Pakistanis seek the services of smugglers in order to travel to Western countries,” it said. Human trafficking is operated by mafia-style groups and criminal networks such as People’s Aman Committee, D-Company, Altaf Khanani, who have links with corrupt government officials and political parties.American authorities found hundreds of Pakistanis were entering the country from the southern border illegally, and it was operated by a Pakistan-based human smuggling organization. Citing it as a “threat to the national security”, they designated Pakistani citizen Abid Ali Khan, who operated a transnational human smuggling network. “Abid Ali Khan is alleged to have organized and led an international organization that, in exchange for monetary payment, facilitated the illegal smuggling of individuals through various countries to the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid.

Khan carried out human smuggling operations from Pakistan’s Nowshera, which is known for violent Islamic militancy and terror activities. US government announced USD 2 million award for information that leads to the arrest of Khan. There is deep involvement of Pakistani officials in the human trafficking business. This is a major reason why these syndicates work fearlessly. Pakistan government had to accept that the employees of the state-run airliner PIA were involved in human smuggling to Europe and other parts of the world.

Despite requests and warnings from Western countries, the Pakistani government appeared to have failed in dismantling the human trafficking run by Pakistani-based syndicates. Now, European Union has threatened tighter visa restrictions if Pakistandid not take the illegal migrant back.Now the EU is getting the Pakistani government to come up with plans to stop the “smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings”.