Strasbourg, France – The European Parliament on Tuesday approved an agreement that will allow European Union governments to send back to Pakistan illegal migrants caught in their territories.

EU parliament

EU parliament

The agreement also covers rejected asylum seekers and third- country nationals who have illegally entered the EU through Pakistan, including those coming from war-torn Afghanistan.

In a 382-250 vote, with 23 abstentions, the assembly backed the agreement’s entry into force despite human rights concerns voiced by centre-left deputies.

‘We cannot call for the respect of human rights throughout the world and then sell out immediately over security concerns,’ protested Sonia Alfano, an Italian
member of the EU parliament’s liberal group.

Several of her socialist, green and far-left colleagues shared her concerns, as they stressed during a debate Monday that Pakistan has not signed the Geneva Convention on Refugees, which prevents governments from deporting people at risk of torture.

But EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said despite that failure by Pakistani authorities, EU states would still be bound by international law, including the convention.

A clause in the agreement explicitly states that the EU-Pakistan deal will apply ‘without prejudice to the rights, obligations and responsibilities of the member states of the EU and Pakistan under international law.’

Centre-left EU deputies had also argued that it would be unfortunate to start deporting people to Pakistan while the country is still reeling from last month’s devastating floods.

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