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Travel agents behind human trafficking

18 April, 2007

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KARACHI: Pakistan Hajj Group Organising Committee has demanded of President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to give Umra policy under control of ministry of religious affairs to not merely facilitate the pilgrims but also curb the growing phenomenon of human trafficking by certain travel agents.

This was stated by general secretary Pakistan Hajj Group Organising Committee, Muhammad Rafiq while addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Wednesday.

Acting chairman of the committee, Muneer Ahmed Ansari, Muhammad Yunus Bhola, Ahmed Zeeshan of Al-Khair Group, Atamad-ul-Haq of Khatm-e-Nabuwat group and other members were also present on the occasion.

Muhammad Rafiq urged the government to introduce a comprehensive system and laws for Umra travel agents in order to curb the human trafficking phenomenon.

He criticized the condition of IATA license for those travel agents, who had got Umra licenses from Saudi Arabia, which, he said, was only related to air ticketing, and had nothing to do with Umra process.

"Taking undue advantage of IATA license condition, several travel agents are involved in human trafficking, which has earned a bad name to Pakistan," he observed.

Rafiq said some 432,000 pilgrims had gone to Saudi Arabia for performing Umra last year, of them, around 58,000 had not so far returned.

Following the condition of IATA license, he said the number of illegal Pakistani immigrants to Saudi Arabia had risen to 1.5million within last three years. These immigrants were involved in theft, begging and other crimes, he maintained.

As a result, he said, "the government of Saudi Arabia was tightening its Umra Policy for Pakistanis with every passing day." He mentioned that owing to strict Hajj policy of the ministry of religious affairs, not even a single pilgrim had stayed illegally in Saudi Arabia in 2005-06. However, he deplored, no such policy had so far been introduced for Umra travel agents.

End.

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