Pakistani migrants are taking advantage of the war in Ukraine to illegally enter the European Union among the fleeing refugees. The European Times reported that because of the Ukrainian refugee crisis, the country's borders with neighbouring EU countries, namely Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, are porous, thus allowing migrants to take advantage as they “surreptitiously plan to seek asylum or arrive as illegal immigrants in European countries like Germany.”
Ukraine’s immediate neighbours, particularly Poland, are already dealing with a massive influx of refugees from Ukraine, with 2.5 million people already fleeing the country. However, according to the outlet, European countries like France and Germany are concerned about the influx of “undesirable” elements from countries like Pakistan.
It was noted that about 130 Pakistani students evacuated from Ukraine and were temporarily stationed in Romania. Although most were flown back home by March 10, three of them disappeared from their hotel in Romania and were found in Germany, reaching the country via a land route.
Pakistan believes that at least 40,000 citizens are attempting to illegally reach Europe via Iran and Turkey. Once in Europe, many are drawn to religious groups, like the Tablighi Jamaat which runs several thousand mosques across Europe. Dr. Patrick Sukhdeo explained that “the Tablighi Jamaat operates in every sense as a secret society in this country [Britain], as much as elsewhere [...] Its meetings are held behind closed doors. We don’t know who attends them. How much money it has. It publishes no minutes or accounts. It doesn’t talk about itself. It is extremely difficult to penetrate.”
US officials, according to VOA, do not directly link Tablighis with terrorism. They do say though that “the group’s beliefs and teachings have been a cornerstone for some members of al-Qaida and other radical Muslim groups.”
In the past few years, thousands of Pakistani nationals have been deported from EU countries for living without valid documents and participating in gang activity, while thousands more are in prisons across the continent for extreme crimes like murder and rape. According to Pakistani official sources, most of these deportations were surprisingly from Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Iran and Turkey.
For example, Turkey deported 32,300 Pakistanis in the last six years. In 2017, Saudi Arabia deported over 40,000 Pakistani workers for suspected involvement in terrorism. In fact, the Saudi government has increased scrutiny of workers coming from Pakistan. From the US, more than 1,700 Pakistanis have been deported since 2015. In Greece, as many as 6,230 Pakistanis have been deported, with thousands more facing deportation. Germany too has been regularly deporting failed asylum seekers, convicts and other illegal migrants from Pakistan.
As European Times highlighted, in October 2020, French MEP Dominique Bilde said Pakistan is a key player regarding the “serious security threats” posed by the sale of EU passports and visas to criminals.
Speaking in Parliament, Bilde said: “Pakistan are the leaders in fake passports and fake documents. They have received over 4 billion euros in aid since 2014. We are supporting certain states and those who are clearly supporting Islamist terrorism. Visas are just a business, they have an impact on migration, it is possible for Bosnian visas to be sold to Pakistan where all nationals of this country could be suspected of terrorism.”
Her comments were made in the context of the Paris attack in September 2020 where two people were killed outside Charlie Hebdo’s former office. The attacker was a citizen of Pakistan who entered France illegally and acquired citizenship by falsifying his documents.
According to a DW report, “The Business with Terror - Secret Services and Jihad”, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) used funding from western counterparts to finance crime and terror in Europe. According to the investigation, the ISI used syndicates to run fly-by-night operations to supply fake travel documents to Pakistanis travelling towards Europe and the US.
The war in Ukraine provides opportunities for Pakistan to push in more illegal immigrants into European countries that are already reeling from the 2015 migrant crisis. It is recalled that for many periods of the so-called Syrian refugee crisis, most of the illegal immigrants that were apprehended by Greek authorities were actually from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and not Syria.
None-the-less, Pakistan exerts international influence through the artificial creation of a diaspora community. With these populations usually not vetted before given residency in Europe, it is not realised that they are usually uneducated with the exception of Quranic teachings in a madrassa, thus putting them at the behest of ISI instruction.
With Ukraine gripped by war and the EU’s borders once again becoming laxed to accommodate for the movement of millions of Ukrainians across the continent, early signs show that the borders are exploitable. Although only three Pakistani students illegally passed the EU’s borders, it is inevitable that this news will spread and encourage human smugglers to concoct new routes.
In this way, another repercussion that was not anticipated by the West when it encouraged Ukraine to not resolve its issues with Moscow diplomatically and push ahead with NATO membership, is the opportunities for illegal immigrants - including jihadists and criminals, to exploit weak EU borders as Ukrainians in their millions are relocated across Europe.