Government begins deportation proceedings against 28 people in Lahore.

LAHORE: In the aftermath of the arrest of US national Aaron Mark DeHaven, who was detained in Peshawar for overstaying his visa, a nationwide crackdown has begun against foreign citizens living in the country illegally.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) conducted a raid in Macca Colony in the Gulberg area of Lahore in which it discovered 28 foreign citizens, mostly Nigerians but also including one American, who were in the country illegally. All of the 28 have been presented before a magistrate in Lahore who ordered them detained pending further legal hearings regarding their deportation.

They had been taken into custody by the FIA which had charged them for violating the Foreigners Act of 1946. Under the law, the penalty for overstaying visas can stretch up to five years in prison and a fine. Entering the country illegally carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison and a fine of Rs100,000. These penalties, however, are rarely pursued and even in this case, the government is expected to coordinate with the US and Nigerian governments to arrange for a quick deportation.

Law enforcement agencies have begun investigating the presence of foreign citizens residing in the country illegally and have begun receiving information that suggests that a large number of people are living in Lahore and its environs without proper documentation. The precise number of illegal residents is unknown at this point.

Much of the information that the FIA and police have come from raids against organised crime, in which some foreign citizens have been found to have been involved.

The government has been concerned in recent weeks by the presence of foreign citizens in Pakistan, particularly in the aftermath of the shootings in Lahore by suspected CIA operative Raymond Davis. The interior ministry has issued directives to law enforcement agencies to find and deport any foreign citizens who may be in the country illegally.

As part of this crackdown, an American national, Aaron Mark DeHaven was arrested in Peshawar for overstaying his visa. On Monday, a court headed by a Magistrate in Peshawar rejected DeHaven’s bail application. Magistrate Qudratullah Khan Marwat in his short judgment said that the record available to the court proved that the visa of US national Aaron Mark DeHaven had expired in October 2010 and his stay in Pakistan since that time was illegal.

DeHaven was aware that his visa had expired and has admitted that it was a mistake not to renew it.

With additional reporting from APP

Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2011.


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