Check on human smuggling: Ministry contemplates bringing visa firms under regulations
Lahore – Deliberation at the interior ministry are underway to bring the visa consultancy firms and travel agents under regulations as part of its efforts to control human smuggling.
“Fraudulently obtained visa” is the real problem irking the Federal Investigation Agency to check human smuggling.
Although the visa consultancy firms and travel agents meet legal requirements of registration (from Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan), they do not come under any regulation which the FIA believes is not only hurting its efforts to check human smuggling but also working with impunity.
“In many cases consultancy firms prepare a case for their clients knowingly that they want to slip away in the country of their destination. In some cases, the firms guide their clients to get to the desired destination and help them obtain visas there by using the tricks of the trade. Therefore, a regulation is needed to check this trend,” says a source in the interior ministry.
The source cited the example of a couple of consultancy firms like Future Concern that were good at doing so. “A couple of days ago a Pakistani man, Arsalan, was deported from the United States for illegally entering there from Mexico. Arsalan had got education visa for Mexico with the help of a consultancy firm here a couple of years back. From Mexico he entered the US and was caught in Houston.
In this case, Arsalan said the visa consultants had guided him how to get to his desired destination,” he says, adding the interior ministry is getting input of the related departments in this regard and soon there are chances that immigration visa consultants and travel agents come under some regulation.
On the other hand, there is also a proposal to blacklist the passports for up to five years of those who make a second attempt to go abroad illegally. “There is another proposal to abolish the fine on a convicted travel agent/human smuggler so that he is only be awarded imprisonment up to seven years,” the interior ministry official said.
Regarding the deported persons, the official said the ministry has introduced a clear policy.
“In case a person leaves the country on valid travel documents and is caught while trying to slip away from that destination no FIR will be registered against him on his deportation as he did not commit a crime here. In case a person is caught while entering illegally in other country from here a case will be registered on his deportation.”
Some years ago the deported person was treated here as a ‘victim’ in accordance with international obligations. But since there is a rise of human smuggling and the ‘victims’ hardly testify against the agents/human smugglers, leading to poor conviction rate, the ‘victim’ is now considered a ‘partner in crime’ and is being dealt with accordingly.