Pakistanis have been among the huge influx of asylum seekers in Europe, but unlike those from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, who are fleeing war, Pakistanis are rarely allowed to remain because they are viewed as economic migrants.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan sent 30 migrants back to three European countries Thursday after refusing to allow them to leave a chartered plane at an airport in Islamabad, officials said, a move that reflected growing frustration over the treatment of asylum seekers.
Sarfraz Hussain, a spokesman for the Pakistani Interior Ministry, described the migrants as “unverified deportees,” mostly from Greece, saying the authorities would not permit anyone to enter the country without proper documentation.
Greece is the most popular entry point for asylum seekers in Europe, and Thursday, its migration minister said the country would take steps to address the deteriorating situation along the border with Macedonia, where a migrant died Thursday.
The Pakistani interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said last month that European countries were sending people back to Pakistan without identifying their nationality, and the developments Thursday were the first time the country had refused to allow deportees in.
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In a statement, the European Union (EU) said Pakistan was requiring identification information about the deportees above and beyond what was called for in a readmission agreement reached in 2010 and said the case illustrated the need to improve the accord.
Officials said 49 passengers, who were flown to Benazir Bhutto International Airport, were not allowed to leave the plane.
The passengers were questioned, and authorities allowed 19 people to disembark after they were confirmed to be Pakistani citizens. They were then taken into custody by a unit of the Interior Ministry that deals with human trafficking.
Pakistanis have been among the huge influx of asylum seekers into Europe this year, but unlike those from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, who are fleeing war at home, Pakistanis are rarely allowed to remain because they are viewed as economic migrants.
A Greek police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “action will be taken” when the migrants were returned to Greece, but he did not elaborate, noting that the flight had been organized by Frontex, the EU’s border-monitoring agency.
The Greek official said 39 of the people on the plane had been deported from Greece, with the other 10 from Austria and Bulgaria. Of the 30 who were not allowed to enter Pakistan, 26 were from Greece.
Pakistan tightened its policy on readmitting migrants last month, and Khan said an agreement to take migrants back was the subject of “blatant misuse” by several European countries. Yiannis Mouzalas, the Greek migration minister, said it was the responsibility of the EU to intervene.
“If the EU can’t pressure Pakistan, how is it possible for Greece to pressure Pakistan?” he asked.