Swiss Envoys in Pakistan Embroiled in Human Trafficking

ISLAMABAD, May 8, 2006 - The Swiss Embassy in Islamabad is embroiled in a human trafficking scandal with an arrested visa section officer naming and shaming diplomats involved.

"I can confirm that we have been given names of some Swiss diplomats who according to Asher Francis were running the human trafficking racket," Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Deputy Director Tariq Khoso told IslamOnline.net on Monday, May 8.

Though no Swiss official has been questioned so far, Khoso said they were investigating the charges made by Francis, the officer of the Swiss Embassy visa section.

FIA, Pakistani's premier investigation agency, has sought two years record of visa issuing by Swiss embassy.

"We have found serious irregularities in the issuance of visa by the Swiss embassy during the last two years," said Khoso.

Initial investigations have found that people were smuggled to Europe with the connivance of Swiss embassy officials.

The embassy has closed down its Visa section indefinitely after the shocking charges of human trafficking and visa irregularities.

The issue came to the surface after local media started highlighting the plight of Pakistani visa applicants who complained of sexual harassment by Swiss embassy officials.

Swiss Team

The Swiss government is sending experts from its police department to investigate the matter in cooperation with the FIA, Pakistani officials told IOL.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey announced the visa section closure during a visit to Islamabad on Saturday, May 6.

"Switzerland finds itself in a difficult position as a result of the abuse of visa procedures that have been discovered at its embassy here in Islamabad," she said.

"We have been compelled to close down the visa section until further notice," added the top diplomat.

"We have little doubt that we have been targeted by criminal networks engaged in human trafficking."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said he and Calmy-Rey had discussed "complaints of maltreatment and harassment of visa applicants as well as the alleged involvement of some employees of the Swiss embassy in human trafficking."

They agreed that the concerned departments in both countries would jointly investigate the matter.

Admission

Swiss authorities have so far admitted irregularities in visa procedures but not and human trafficking.

Rauf Klasra, the journalist who broke the scandal story, had a different reading into the admission.

"There is an indirect admission of human trafficking in the admission that there were visa irregularities committed by Swiss visa section," he told IOL.

Klasra said there were hundreds of cases with the FIA where visa procedures were not followed by the Swiss visa section.

"FIA is still scrutinizing the record of Swiss visa section and there are cases where visas were issued without proper travel documents," he said.

"We have lodged a petition with the local court against the Swiss Embassy seeking damages for harassing and filing fake complaints against us," Saleem Raza told IOL.

His family members complain of sexual harassment by Francis when they applied for visa early this year.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry last month ordered a probe into alleged sexual harassment of two Pakistani women by Francis in exchange for visas.

Switzerland | Politics | 2006-05-09 |