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Illegal immigrants

August 27, 2009

A deal brokered between Britain and Pakistan will see the return of thousands of Pakistani immigrants living illegally in the UK, officials from both countries said on Wednesday.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik
Illegal immigrants cannot stay in UK says Pakistan's MalikImage: AP

In a statement issued to the media, a spokeswoman for by the High Commission for Pakistan in London, said Pakistani authorities would provide free emergency passports, while Britain would help the return of Pakistanis detained or living illegally in the country. The numbers could run into thousands, but the High Commission could not be more precise, the statement said.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik and his British counterpart, Alan Johnson, agreed on the details of the deal during talks in London ahead of President Asif Ali Zardari's visit later this week.

"Those people who do not have a valid reason to stay in the United Kingdom need to return," Johnson was quoted as saying in the statement, pointing to illegal asylum seekers who have been detained in British jails, numbers of which were not immediately available.

Malik described the agreement as an important achievement.

"Let me be very clear and inform the Pakistanis that they must not think that they can get a permanent status if they stay here illegally for 10 years or more," he added.

A British Interior Ministry statement added: "We welcome Interior Minister Malik's commitment to facilitating the return of Pakistani nationals who have been found to have no right to stay in the UK. Working with foreign governments to establish identity and obtain documentation is a crucial part of enforcing the UK's immigration laws.

The British parliament in London
Britain has traditionally accepted a large number of Pakistani immigrantsImage: AP

"We also welcome the very close co-operation which we have with the Pakistan government in working to tackle international terrorism," the statement said, adding weight to the belief that while the agreement is expected to target illegal immigrants, it could also be used against suspected terrorists.

Britain and Pakistan pledged closer cooperation on counter-terrorism and economic development to help fight Taliban militants during a meeting in London between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Zardari in May.

Terror suspects returned home

The deportation agreement came just days after two Pakistani students arrested during a series of anti-terrorism raids in Britain arrived in back Islamabad.

Abdul Wahab Khan, 26, and Shoaib Khan, 27, were among 12 men -- 11 Pakistanis and one Briton -- arrested in the pre-dawn raids in April but were not subsequently charged with any criminal offences. Their lawyer told reporters that they had not been deported but had returned to Pakistan of their own free will.

"They are innocent and have not been charged of any crime in UK jurisdiction," lawyer Amjad Malik added as they arrived at the airport. "There were no charges brought at any time on both of them. They have not been deported and the charges were withdrawn -- they came back willingly."

The lawyer criticized British police saying the two men had been held for more than four months under immigration laws when they should have been let go after four weeks.

Despite the increased cooperation in anti-terror and immigration operations, Pakistan has called for Britain to apologies to the 11 Pakistani men, whom authorities previously said would be deported because they posed a threat to national security.

Editor: Chuck Penfold