Parliament approves deal to return Pakistani nationals
The European Parliament has approved an agreement that obliges the Pakistani government to readmit nationals found to be staying illegally in EU countries.
The vote to accept the readmission agreement, which took the European Commission eight years to negotiate with Pakistan, split the Parliament, with three groups rejecting the deal.
The agreement was approved by 382 MEPs and rejected by 250 in the vote on Tuesday (21 September).
Csaba Sógor, a Romanian centre-right MEP who guided the Parliament’s report on the agreement through to approval, said that the agreement was “an important instrument in fighting illegal migration into the EU”.
The three groups that voted against – the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Greens and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) – argued that the accord offered few guarantees that Pakistan, which is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention on refugee rights, would adhere to international human-rights standards. In an opinion attached to the Parliament’s report, they stated that the agreement “contains numerous loopholes and ambiguities”.
Hélène Flautre, a French Green MEP, said the passage of the agreement was “seriously regrettable”, adding that she was concerned about “the lack of information about the impact of the agreement”.
Sylvie Guillaume, a French Socialist MEP, claimed that the accord, which was signed by EU member states and Pakistan last October, would enable the forced repatriation of minors.
“The concern about respect for human rights is even stronger because the agreement not only covers Pakistani nationals, but also third-country nationals who have transited through Pakistan, including Afghans,” said Guillaume.
Martin Schulz, the leader of the S&D, said he had tried to persuade the leaders of other political groups to postpone the vote in order to secure more time to address concerns not just about human rights, but also about Pakistan’s ability to handle returnees following floods this summer. The UN estimates that the floods affected more than 21 million people.
Commission figures dating from 2008 estimated that around 13,000 Pakistani nationals were illegally resident in the EU at the time.
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