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Pakistan’s Economic Crisis Fuels Illegal Migration to Europe


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Amid Pakistan’s deepening economic crisis, a growing number of individuals are taking desperate measures, risking their lives to seek a better future in Europe. The country’s economy has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in widespread job losses, skyrocketing inflation, and a depreciating currency. The dire economic circumstances have driven many Pakistanis to engage in illegal migration, as they hope to escape the economic hardships and create opportunities for themselves and their families.

Hameed Iqbal Bhatti, who had once prospered working in Saudi Arabia for two decades, found himself in a desperate situation upon his return to Pakistan three years ago. The closure of his restaurant business coupled with limited job prospects and the overwhelming burden of inflation pushed him to pool together $7,600 to pay a trafficker for a perilous journey to Europe. Tragically, the boat carrying Bhatti and hundreds of others sank off the coast of Greece, with Bhatti now presumed dead, highlighting the dangers faced by those attempting to enter Europe illegally.

According to data, Pakistanis have been undertaking these treacherous journeys in increasing numbers due to the country’s economic meltdown. With an economy worth $350 billion, Pakistan is grappling with a record inflation rate of 38%, a sharply depreciating currency, and an external deficit. These factors have resulted in drastic measures being implemented by the government to avoid default, further exacerbating the economic crisis and leading to diminished growth and employment opportunities.

Although official unemployment data has not been published for two years, economists estimate that the jobless rate has reached a record 11-12%. The industrial sector, which serves as Pakistan’s economic engine, has contracted by nearly 3% in the current financial year. The combination of limited job prospects, economic instability, and rising inflation has left many Pakistanis with little hope for a better future within their own country.

The consequences of Pakistan’s economic woes are reflected in the increasing number of irregular migrants detected at the European Union’s external borders. From January to May of this year alone, there were 102,000 detections, marking a 12% increase compared to the previous year. The central Mediterranean route, particularly from Libya to Italy and Greece, witnessed a nearly doubled number of crossings, with Pakistanis ranking as the third-largest nationality registered in Italy originating from Libya.

Despite the dangers associated with illegal migration, the lure of foreign exchange and the potential for improved economic conditions overseas are strong motivators for many Pakistanis. By living frugally in Europe, they can save money and send remittances back home, which is even more appealing due to the Pakistani rupee’s significant depreciation against the euro and dollar over the past 18 months.

While efforts have been made by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to curb unauthorized border crossings, many individuals depart with valid visas for countries like Turkey or Libya before embarking on their onward journey to Europe. Limited data shared by the FIA indicated a 50% increase in the number of people caught crossing Pakistan’s borders illegally in the first four months of 2023 compared to the previous year.

Pakistan, known as a major labor exporter, heavily relies on remittances to sustain its economy. With limited legal migration avenues available, many migrants resort to the services of agents who present irregular migration as a quicker and cheaper means to reach Europe. The lack of legal alternatives and the perceived value of foreign currency contributes to the growing trend of illegal migration.

As Pakistan continues to grapple with its economic crisis, it is imperative for the government to address the underlying issues driving this dangerous migration trend. Effective measures to stimulate economic growth, create employment opportunities, and enhance social support systems are crucial in alleviating the

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