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Europe — the new hot spot

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Source: “Perilous Journeys: Unravelling irregular migration” from Pakistan
by the National Commission for Human Rights

In 2022, Pakistan was not even among Europe’s top 10 countries of origin for irregular migrants, says a report by the National Commission for Human Rights in Pakistan. By mid-2023, however, Europe had become the fifth most prominent. So what changed?

For one thing, there is a new route. Pakistani authorities have said some migrants now leave via Dubai to Egypt or Libya and on through to Europe. In the first half of 2023, about 13,000 Pakistanis left for Egypt or Libya, double the 2022 number. More telling, about 10,000 of these migrants have not returned as yet.

The last few years of political and economic uncertainty, terrorism, inflation and declining opportunities have created a conducive environment to risk losing all, as the tragic sinking of the boat in June 2023 shows, where over 350 Pakistani lives were lost. The floods of 2023 have also played a role in creating an environment conducive to the hazards of illegal migration.

In the 1960s and 70s, people from Gujranwala, Gujrat and Mandi Bahuaddin mirgrated to Europe and settled successfully. Their success influenced others. However, the reluctance to offer legal migration options by countries led many to attempt illegal border crossings, which eventually led to the business of migrant smugglers.

In 2018, Pakistani introduced new legislation to prevent irregular migrants. However, an unintended consequence was that these policies drove migrants towards riskier border-crossing methods. According to the report, Pakistan is not only a source for smuggled migrants and trafficked individuals, it also serves as a transit point and a destination.

The poorer class of irregular migrants opt for land and sea routes, often starting in Karachi. The ones with access to greater financial resources often possess legitimate passports and visas, opting for air routes. It is very difficult to prevent someone with a valid passport and visa from travelling, which may be why it is so challenging to have visas issued for many countries.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, May 27th, 2024

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