Tags: Pakistanis | Deported

87 Pakistanis Deported

Wednesday, 20 November 2002 12:00 AM

A chartered flight of the private YES Airlines was hired to carry the deportees to Pakistan from Buffalo, N.Y., where they were gathered from across the United States.

This is the third group of Pakistanis ordered out of the country. A total of 131 detainees went to Pakistan on June 25 and 95 others left Aug. 21.

"Most of those on today's flight - more than 70 - are deportation absconders," said a U.S. official. "They had either applied for political asylum or had tried to legalize their stay through other means, such as marriage, but their pleas were already rejected by U.S. courts."

The group includes five detainees who overstayed visas, four arrested on drug charges, three on assault allegations and three for sexual offenses, the officer said.

Since early October, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has softened its campaign against people who overstay visas and is instead concentrating on deportation absconders -- those already ordered to leave the country but who have not.

An INS official, who requested not to be identified, told UPI that immigration officials were allowing those who could to legally extend their visas.

Initially, those who had overstayed their visas were also treated like deportation absconders and were deported when arrested.

Although the laws for deporting illegal immigrants have existed for decades, the INS launched an aggressive campaign for deporting them after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The INS arrested 300 Pakistanis along with the group deported Wednesday. But since many of them have cases pending in U.S. courts, they will stay in custody until their cases are decided.

The Pakistan Embassy in Washington agreed that the INS has softened its attitude toward Pakistani nationals.

"It is no more chasing those who overstay their visas as it was doing after 9/11," said an embassy official. "This change came about six-seven weeks ago," he added.

But leaders of the Pakistani community in the United States criticized the Pakistani government for failing to protect the interests of its nationals in the United States.

"We are supposed to be a U.S. ally in the war against terrorism and yet Pakistani nationals in the United States are being treated as enemies," said a community leader who did not want to be identified.

"It is clear now that the Pakistani government needs to raise the detainees issue with the U.S. government in a substantial, non-cosmetic manner, at the highest level as well as with a more strident pitch," he said. "Otherwise ... the Pakistani community will face even more difficult times ahead."

Sources in the INS and the Pakistan Embassy confirmed that an embassy officer and INS officers jointly interviewed Pakistani detainees in upstate New York over three days to determine which of the 150 or so detainees would be repatriated. An INS source revealed Tuesday night that 87 detainees had been cleared by midnight.

Pakistan's Deputy Chief of Mission Mohammad Sadiq told UPI the embassy was providing "significant assistance" to Pakistani nationals in INS custody.

But interviews with INS officers and families of the detainees revealed that a much higher demarche would be required by the Pakistan government if it wanted to stop arrests of illegal Pakistani residents in the United States.

Sadiq said embassy policy had been to issue travel documents only after ensuring the detainee had been dealt with according to U.S. law and afforded proper legal relief.

INS sources revealed the last two deportation flights left from Louisiana, but this time the location was changed to Buffalo because the embassy had requested better holding facilities for detainees.

"We had specially asked for takeoff from Buffalo because the INS has excellent detention facilities in this city, including a gym, library and banking facilities," said Sadiq.

He said that for the first time, the embassy also provided financial assistance to the detainees so they could reach home from Islamabad.

However, one of the detainees, Jamil Mohammed, told UPI, "I have received nothing yet, although Mr. Imran from the embassy has assured me that he will financially assist me and other detainees during the flight.

"I have nothing, I had to sell my watch to pay the attorney, who did nothing for me."

Many detainees told UPI through collect calls they fear they might be arrested and further harassed after they land in Islamabad.

In August, a Pakistani immigration detainee, Nasir Ali Mubarak, was detained for many days at an unknown location after being repatriated, said Stephanie Mubarak, his American wife.

But Pakistani officials denied that claim.

"There has been no harassment of those Pakistanis who have been repatriated on chartered flights," said Imran Ali, the embassy consular officer. "In fact, two FIA officers ... received the detainees warmly and helped them reach home. Even the INS has officially commended FIA's efficiency."

Ali was referring to Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency.

Most of the "deportation absconders" being repatriated sought asylum on dubious grounds in the 1990s, and their applications were denied.

But some others had better luck.

Families of Mohammad Shakeel, Jamal Khan, Haroon Wilson told UPI the embassy helped in stopping their deportations on humanitarian grounds.

"We have nobody in Pakistan. We do not even know the names of the cities. We did not know where to go and where to stay," said one of them.

These detainees, however, face prolonged incarceration in U.S. jails and an uncertain future.

Many of the 87 detainees were desperate to return to Pakistan and their families were keen to see them.

"I need my son back, I hope he is on the flight. (We were) assured ... he would be, but I am not sure," said the mother of detainee Haroon Abdul Rashid, who said she called daily from Bahrain. "I will die if I do not see him ... I want my son back."

The father of Farrukh Kamal, another detainee told UPI from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, "He is a just a boy. He has never seen hardship. We should not have sent him to the U.S."

UPI confirmed that both detainees were on the flight and informed their parents.

Many detainees said the embassy's Washington office was very responsive to their concerns.

"There are Indians in detention centers, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, who have been crying for their embassies' help for months and even years, but nobody listens to them," said detainee Mohammad Jamal. "Many have gone mad in jails here. We just have to pick up the phone and dial 202-939-6200 and our collect call is taken. I have even talked to the officer at his home way past midnight."

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A chartered flight of the private YES Airlines was hired to carry the deportees to Pakistan from Buffalo, N.Y., where they were gathered from across the United States. This is the third group of Pakistanis ordered out of the country. A total of 131 detainees went to...
Pakistanis,Deported
1094
2002-00-20
Wednesday, 20 November 2002 12:00 AM
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