Human trafficking thrives as Pakistan sits on draft law

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As the government sits on a draft law prescribing stricter punishment for human smugglers, the menace of trafficking people thrives, claiming lives of those traveling abroad in search of greener pastures.

With the arrest of three more alleged human smugglers on Friday, the tally of those held for involvement in the ugly business has risen to seven within two weeks. Of them, four are among the most-wanted criminals.

But, according to a senior FIA officer, the arrest of even hundreds of traffickers won’t serve the purpose unless the government enacts the amended law, drafted in consultation with the agency and United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and lying with the federal law ministry for last many months.

A ministry official was reluctant to share with Dawn the reasons for the delay in introduction of the law, passing the buck to the politicians in power.

The authorities dealing with the issue say only law-making will fail to rectify the situation unless the “push and pull” factor is addressed.

According to them, the “push” factor includes joblessness, lawlessness and sectarian killings going on in the country, whereas, the “pull” comprises attractive western lifestyle and “success stories” of Pakistanis going abroad and earning money.

‘Push, pull’ factors also needed to be countered

A recent UNODC report says most of the migrants are from either economically deprived or violence-hit parts of Pakistan where they do not see any hope.

“Even one success story from a village may attract 200 more from the area notwithstanding the risks involved in reaching the dream destination — from financial fraud by the recruitment agents to deaths while crossing into Europe through various dangerous borders and channels,” says an FIA official, requesting not to be named.

As human trafficking is rated the third most lucrative trade after arms and drugs smuggling, the volume of money involved in it attracts 100 more when one agent is captured, he says.

In most cases, he laments, the accused gets released after he returns the amount to the complainant.

The UNODC study estimates the illegal economy associated with the crime in Pakistan at more than $109 million a year.

Responding to a query, he says there is no accurate data available on ways and means being adopted by the aspiring economic migrants for leaving the country because they are not choosing the direct route.

He says Iraq-Syria-Turkey route is popular these days to reach Europe, while for landing in Australia the people first reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

“How can we bar someone from going to Iraq for religious tourism when one has a legitimate visa for the purpose?” he asks. And soon after entering Iraq, the human smugglers immediately take them to the Syrian border which has become very porous because of the war going on there.

(Originally published in the Dawn, Pakistan.)

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