Confusion, anger and crushing disappointment surrounds the deportation from Greece of a batch of more than 200 migrants, most of them Pakistanis. It is a part of an attempt by the European Union (EU) to slow or preferably halt the flow of humanity attempting to reach Europe and escape from the wars of the Middle East, primarily the war in Syria. The inflow has produced a crisis in Europe that has challenged one of the fundamentals of the EU, namely the Schengen Agreement that allows free movement across borders. A formula has now been devised whereby the EU will deport those that it terms illegal — essentially economic migrants — and those that it defines as bonafide refugees from war who will be allowed to stay pending the investigation of their asylum claims. The numbers deported will be reciprocated by an equal number currently in Turkey in one of the many camps there, and they will be allowed into the EU but only up to 72,000.
The reciprocal scheme has only been operating for a few days but it has been widely condemned by civil rights organisations in the EU and the Middle East. The streams of migrants are a mixture of those who are fleeing warfare or persecution, principally from Syria but also Iraq and Libya; and those from a range of other countries seeking a better life elsewhere. Significant numbers of those are from Pakistan and they make up a pool of ‘illegals’ in all of the EU states as well as the UK, which is not a Schengen signatory. The EU states have an elevated level of concern about terrorist entryism using the refugee stream as cover, and there is indeed evidence that this has happened already. Given the parlous state of Pakistan’s international reputation as a mother-lode of terrorism, it is unsurprising — though unfair and highly discriminatory — that Pakistanis are among the first to be deported to Turkey and then reportedly deported from Turkey back to Pakistan under an agreement ratified by the Turkish parliament as far back as 2010. The doors to the EU are closing, and unlikely to open again in the foreseeable future.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2016.
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