Human trafficking: FIA to probe fake visa case involving British Council

Officials allegedly awarded fake visa letters to teachers and students for the UK.

Zahid Gishkori January 03, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has constituted a committee to probe into a human trafficking case allegedly involving various officials of the British Council Pakistan, officials revealed.

A case of human trafficking surfaced in the British Council Karachi office when an official of the council awarded fake visa recommendation letters to various teachers and students who wanted to travel to the UK under the scheme “Connecting Classrooms” last year, they added. “The majority of applicants belonged to Balochistan and Sindh,” sources said.

Connecting Classrooms is a global programme that creates partnerships between clusters of schools in the UK and others countries around the world including Pakistan.

“We have constituted a committee to investigate the matter,” said Karachi Additional Director Anti Human Smuggling Cell Azad Khan.  A one-man FIA committee was constituted after media reports surfaced, Khan told The Express Tribune. “Investigators will dig out how the British Council officials, in alleged connivance with the British High Commission (BHC) officials, were sending applicants to the UK on fake visa letters,” he said.

Meanwhile, an investigator revealed that Connecting Classrooms Project Manager Azhar Rafi had issued fake visa letters to Pakistani citizens under the scheme.  Rafi was dealing with the visa letters at the BHC in Pakistan as well as the United Kingdom Bordering Agency (UKBA) to facilitate the clients, the investigator added.

“It’s feared that some BHC officials also helped the British Council officials in this human smuggling scam and suspiciously sold out some sponsorship letters to the applicants.”

“Internal investigations are being conducted by the British Council officials against the accused officials,” said British Council Pakistan Director Communication Fasi Zaka. “Only Rafi was involved in human trafficking case,” he clarified. “The British Council officials who were involved in the scam have already been dismissed from service,” Zaka said.

Project Manager English (Language) Sunil Iqbal and Head of Programme Schools Nabeel Alvi were dismissed from service on these charges, he explained. “The British Council does not directly deal with visa matters,” he replied to a query.  “It only sends applications of successful candidates to the BHC for issuance of visas to them. Then the BHC sends these applications to the UKBA. It then finalises the visa process,” Zaka added.

To a question pertaining to the alleged involvement of the BHC officials in the human trafficking case, the press attaché of the commission on Saturday rejected the allegations.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2012.


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