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Greece has caused outrage due to canceling hundreds of visas which were issued to Pakistanis. The controversy comes from the fact that the Greek government issued these visas yet the Greek consulate in Islamabad then subsequently canceled the visas. It is estimated that 62 percent of Pakistani males between 15-24 years old want to emigrate to other nations in search of better opportunities. Due to political instability and inflation which has reached 40 percent in the nation it is unlikely that the number of people trying to leave Pakistan will decrease anytime soon.
One potential explanation for visas being canceled according to the website of the Greek embassy in Pakistan is the visa applicant being registered in the Schengen Information System or the National Record of Undesirable Foreigners. The majority of European Union member states including Greece are members of the Schengen Area. This allows for the facilitation of free movement of people between members of Schengen Areas. In order to protect the safety of the Schengen Area, the Schengen Information System exists to allow member states to share information and alerts about people who may potentially be dangerous. The system is also used to combat irregular migration ( migration without the necessary legal documents and permissions) and counter-terrorism. In the case of irregular migration, member states of the Schengen Area must create alerts for refusal of entry or stay. For counter terrorism, the Schengen Area collaborates with Europol to look out for potential suspects.
A major point of contention in Pakistan is the price these Pakistanis paid for the visas. Each visa costs between 2-5 million Pakistani rupees (about 6400-16000 euros). This is a significant financial loss for a Pakistani worker trying to move to Greece considering that the average monthly wage in Pakistan is about 81,800 rupees a month (around 261 euros). This clearly demonstrates that it took years for these Applicants in Pakistan to save up enough money to apply for the visas only for them to be suddenly canceled without a refund. While wages are higher in Greece, it is also important to point out that the Greek government should realize that this would be a considerable financial loss as well for the average Greek worker. In 2021, the average annual income in Greece was 16,235 euros. As the average Greek worker must also pay for rent, food, energy and other everyday costs, it would be difficult to save up this amount of money as well.
Anger of Pakistanis in Greece
Relations are not the best between Greeks and Pakistanis in Greece however and there may be a lack of support or large movement of Greeks urging the government to look into the issue of these canceled visas. A constant challenge for Greece has been struggling to deal with fires which occur annually. This however has been celebrated on X (formerly known as Twitter) by Pakistanis who see it as karma for the 300 Pakistanis who died on a ship that capsized which was trying to illegally smuggle Pakistanis into the country. This however ignores the role that smugglers play who have repeatedly put migrants on ships that are not seaworthy. It should be understood without stating it yet it is important to remember that not every Pakistani thinks this way. The negative thing however is that those with extremist viewpoints of Greece and viewing migration as a weapon Pakistanis can use against Greece can in the end harm those who are simply looking for better opportunities than are currently available in Pakistan.
Economic Hardship in Mediterranean EU Member States
Another factor which may cause the Greek government to not focus on finding a solution for Pakistanis looking to work abroad is the Greek unemployment rate. While it has drastically improved since its record high of 27.47 percent in 2013, The unemployment rate in June 2023 was 11.1 percent. This will likely lead to Greeks putting pressure on the national government to focus on improving economic conditions for Greek citizens rather than foreigners.
Along with Greece, Spain, Malta and Italy also have a national GDP per capita under the average for the European Union. Despite being poorer however these nations bear the majority of the responsibility of taking care of these migrants and process asylum applications. There has been tension over NGOs registered in wealthier EU member states who own their own ships to rescue migrants, yet leave the responsibility over processing these migrants to the Mediterranean EU member states. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum was agreed upon by the EU member states as an allegedly fairer way to process migrants and asylum seekers yet time will tell if this is true or if Mediterranean EU member States will continue to have the majority of the responsibility.
Greece ultimately has the right to refuse entry to migrants. The nation however should not take advantage of people desperate for better opportunities than are currently available in Pakistan. Applicants should not be forced to spend a fortune on a visa only for it to be canceled by the embassy in Islamabad without a clear reason. Pakistanis however also must be conscious of how they conduct themselves in Greece. While it appears to be a small majority celebrating the fires in Greece, this can cause relations to deteriorate further between Greece and Pakistan. The anger over the shipwreck needs to be directed towards the smugglers who continue to place migrants on ships that are not seaworthy. The human traffickers charge migrants significant amounts of money only to use ships that they know have a high risk of sinking.
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