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Most pilgrimage operators defrauding people, claims FIA

Most pilgrimage operators defrauding people, claims FIA

LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has said that most operators of Haj, Umrah and other pilgrimage services are defrauding people and called for introducing amendments to the Emigration Ordi­na­nce, 1979, to keep a check on their activities.

In a letter to the Ministry of Interior, the FIA said that there were a number of complaints against consultants/tour operators involved in immigration/facilitation of people for studies, immigration, business and visit visas.

“Most of the operators of Haj, Umrah and other pilgrimages have been found involved in defrauding and looting innocent people under the garb of such visa categories,” the letter said.

The FIA noted that the Emigration Ordinance, 1979, dealt especially with immigration for ‘employment and self-employment’.

“Agents, human traffickers and smugglers have changed their modus operandi with the passage of time. The issue has thoroughly been analysed on the basis of complaints and interrogation of deportees and it has been found that intending immigrants are sent abroad on such visa categories as business, study, immigration, Haj, Umrah and ziarat, etc. Human smugglers have established businesses under the title of consultancy services, travel and tour operators, etc.

Emigration Ordinance 1979 lacks stringent provisions to nab such culprits causing hardships to complainants.”

The FIA has proposed that words ‘employment and self-employment’ be excluded and replaced with ‘depart and departure’ for departure out of Pakistan of any person for any purpose and by any means.

It further proposes that clause (vi) of Section 27 of the ordinance could be omitted to cover scandals in which agents looted people on the pretext of Haj, Umrah and pilgrimage visas.

It said that immigration, study, business consultants and companies were not registered with any regulatory authority proposing that these should be registered with the interior ministry to keep a check on them.

A source in the ministry said that there was a question mark over the role of Protector of Emigrants, Ministry of Religious Affairs and the tourism department as a regulator.

“As a regulator, the ministry and these departments are a failure,” he said, adding that human trafficking was thriving owing to a lack of check on them.

He said the protector of emigrants was not even bothered to facilitate people in getting jobs abroad.

“The department should at least develop a guide book for migrant workers so that they should know where to turn to in case of any problem in a foreign land,” the source said, adding that the authorities concerned must take up such matters with these departments.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2015

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