Last Updated: October 01, 2023, 13:03 IST
Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) offloaded 16 beggars at Punjab province’s Multan airport who disguised as Umrah pilgrims on a flight bound for Saudi Arabia, local media reported on Sunday. The group included 11 women, four men, and a child, all traveling on Umrah visas.
During immigration checks this week, FIA officials questioned the passengers, who confessed that they were heading to Saudi Arabia to seek alms. According to Dawn newspaper, they revealed that they would have to surrender half of their earnings from begging to the agents responsible for their travel arrangements.
The FIA Multan circle arrested the passengers for further probe. This arrest came on the heels of disclosure that a significant number of beggars are trafficked abroad through illegal means, according to the Pakistani media.
Earlier this week, a key senate panel was informed that a large number of beggars apprehended in foreign countries hail from Pakistan. An earlier report by CNN News18 revealed that Saudi Arabia cautioned Pakistan about the selection of its Haj quota candidates. Sources indicated that 90 percent of the beggars arrested in this case were from Pakistan and were traveling on Umrah visas.
Riyadh has expressed displeasure to Islamabad over the worsening situation, saying that their prisons were crowded with Pakistani prisoners. Pakistani officials were also reportedly criticised for the prevalence of pickpockets near the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, with the perpetrators being primarily from Pakistan. The sources revealed that the Saudis were unhappy that these individuals traveled on Umrah visas rather than Arab visas.
This was attributed to the lack of invitations or employment letters from Arabs who were hesitant to trust them as skilled labor, opting instead for Indian and Bangladeshi workers.