Shattered dreams: Pakistani government needs to do more to curb human trafficking

News is quickly spreading around about magical doors that have the ability to transport people from one place to another in any part of the world. Saeed and Nadia are a couple who run away from their war torn country through these magical doors from one part of the world to another in search of a better life but are faced with many problems. Unfortunately, magical doors only exist in Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s critically acclaimed 2017 novel Exit West and not in real life. Even though fictional, those magical doors too are quite dangerous and using them is a daunting task. In reality, people have to look for even more dangerous alternatives and illegal immigration is a serious life and death situation.

But despite the risks it does not stop people from going abroad in search of what they consider to be a better future. The reality is much different. They are either sent back to their home countries, become victims of human trafficking or die.

On 2nd February 2018 at least 90 migrants including 16 Pakistanis died in a boat sinking incident off the Libyan coast while trying to travel to Europe. This is not the first time such an incident has occurred and unfortunately will not be the last time, unless the Pakistani government or any concerned government takes effective action.

The European Union in 2017 reached a controversial agreement with the Libyan government to stem the flow of migrants from war torn Libya and another agreement with Turkey in 2016 which reduced in the rate of migration to Greece resulting in lesser casualties in the Mediterranean since then. However, that has made little difference and people either use the same routes or alternative routes and face the same consequences that they might have faced in the Mediterranean, only a few of them are lucky and are able to seek asylum. According to Dawn, in 2017 nearly 29,000 Pakistanis were deported from Iran back to Pakistan. The migrants were seeking illegal passage to Europe but were unsuccessful.

Organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) are trying to take steps to neutralize the crisis. But the first and foremost responsibility is that of the Pakistani government. They need to take effective steps and solve this problem once and one for all.

Although human traffickers are arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), there are no strict laws for them for a harsher punishment and a large number of them never get arrested. In 2017 Dawn reported regarding the district of Gujranwala that low conviction rate for human smugglers and the false promises that made the youth of district so optimistic was the reason that human trafficking was so common. Some of them were involved in the human trafficking business from abroad in rural parts of countries like Turkey and Iran.

It’s the responsibility of the Pakistani government to put an end to human trafficking and find ways to prevent Pakistanis from illegally immigrating elsewhere. The Pakistani government needs to make stricter amendments in its laws regarding human trafficking and make punishments stricter for people involved in human trafficking. As for the people that become victims of this menace, they should be treated as victims and not as criminals. As many people who flee the country through illegal means are poor and without jobs for a better lifestyle abroad. The government and NGOs must work together in order to provide them better opportunities here so they do not risk their lives because of false promises and are able to fulfill their dreams and provide for their families in their home country.

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