UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Pakistan Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar sign the agreement on foreign criminals and immigration offenders at Pakistan High Commission in London on August 17, 2022. Image Credit: Gov.UK

Islamabad: Pakistan and the UK have signed a reciprocal agreement for the return of foreign criminals and immigration offenders from the UK to Pakistan, officials said.

The agreement was signed on Wednesday after years of negotiations between the officials of the two countries.

Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the landmark deal in London. Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK Moazzam Ahmad Khan also attended the signing of the reciprocal agreement held at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Pakistan High Commission London said in its statement that the bilateral agreement would facilitate the return and readmission of those Pakistan nationals who have been residing in the UK without lawful authority. Pakistan and the UK also signed the letter of intent to explore and further broaden mutually beneficial avenues of licit migration.

Return foreign criminals from UK to Pakistan

Patel hailed the development and said: “I’m proud to have signed a new landmark agreement with our Pakistani friends to return foreign criminals and immigration offenders from the UK to Pakistan.” She explained that the “new UK-Pakistan agreement is about removing dangerous foreign criminals and immigration offenders who’ve no right to remain in the UK. The British public have quite rightly had enough of people abusing our laws and gaming the system to prevent removals.”

Pakistani nationals make up the seventh largest number of foreign criminals in prisons in England and Wales totalling nearly 3 per cent of the foreign national offender population, according to a UK Home Office press statement.

The UK has removed 10,741 foreign national offenders globally between January 2019 and December 2021.

Pakistan-UK migration and visa issues

After the signing, the Pakistani and UK officials also held discussions on the entire ambit of Pakistan-UK migration, visa, law enforcement and judicial cooperation relationship including readmission, prioritising opportunities for students, mutual legal assistance and capacity building in law enforcement. The UK is home to one of the largest Pakistani communities. There are around 1.5 million British people of Pakistani origin.

This week, the UK’s international trade secretary launched the Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS), providing tariff reductions and trade facilitation to 65 countries, including Pakistan. This trade scheme would pave the way for an increase in Pakistani exports to the UK. The total trade of goods and services between the UK and Pakistan currently stands £2.9 billion ($3.4b) each year.