September 19, 2021

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‘UK cancels third deportation flight to Pakistan in 12 months’

LONDON: A third UK home office deportation flight to Pakistan has been cancelled in the space of a year.
The most recent flight was due to take off on September 8 carrying 25 people, according to a report in the Guardian. These may have been overstayers, failed asylum seekers or Pakistani nationals with criminal convictions in Britain.
Pakistan refused to accept the home office charter flight as the UK has not removed Pakistan from the UK’s red Covid travel list, the Guardian stated, citing sources. But the Pakistan high commission in London has denied this. “The issue of the Covid travel red list was discussed between the two sides during the British foreign secretary’s recent visit to Pakistan. However, the assertion that there is a link between the cancellation of the flight and the red list is not correct,” it said in a statement to TOI.
Pakistan has been on the UK’s red list since April owing to concerns about the Delta variant and, unlike India, has not been removed yet, meaning that British passengers arriving from Pakistan have to spend 10 days in mandatory hotel quarantine and Pakistani nationals are not allowed to enter the UK.
Two other deportation flights to Pakistan were cancelled in October 2020, the Guardian stated, citing an FOI request response. These flights were not given clearance to land by Pakistan, TOI understands. UK media speculated at the time that it was because the UK had not repatriated former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, who is in London, to face corruption charges in Pakistan. Each time the home office cancels a planned deportation charter flight it costs the British taxpayer about £100,000 (Rs 1 crore.)
The home office refused to confirm or deny the Guardian report. A home office spokesperson told TOI: “People who come to this country and commit crimes should expect to be removed. That is why we regularly operate charter flights to different countries — to remove foreign offenders, and those who have no right to be in the country.”
Since January 2019 the UK has removed 8,441 people.

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