Unveiling diplomatic bias

Pakistani Visa Applicants in Europe

In the labyrinth of international diplomacy, the treatment of visa applicants often reflects the intricate web of relationships between nations. A stark example of this complexity emerges when comparing the visa acceptance rates of individuals from different countries seeking entry into European nations. Recent statistics shed light on a concerning trend: Pakistani visa applicants face disproportionately high rejection rates compared to citizens of other economically challenged nations, despite comparable circumstances.

According to data provided by the European Commission, the number of asylum seekers from Pakistan is significantly lower than that of Turkey, yet Pakistani nationals encounter formidable barriers when applying for visitor visas to European countries. For instance, in 2023, while over 4,648 Turkish citizens successfully applied for Norwegian visit visas, only a single Pakistani applicant received approval. The approval rate of all the declared economically depressed countries is significantly higher than Pakistan despite the fact that their nationals are more frequently seeking Asylum in the EU than Pakistanis. The visa approval rate for Pakistan in 2022 (according to figures provided by the European Commission) is 60 percent while Iran, Syria, Turkey, Colombia and Madagascar ironically stand at 68 percent, 63 percent, 83 percent, 82 percent and 67 percent respectively. Such glaring disparities raise serious questions about the fairness and impartiality of visa processes.

Page 32 of The Migration and Integration Report published by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration for the period between 2012 to 2021 mentions a list of 10 high potential emigration countries whose citizens have been top seekers of Asylum in Norway. To everyone’s surprise, Pakistan does not even figure on this list. The 10 countries include Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Albania and Eritrea, and out out of these, Turkey, Russia and Iran combined have sent no less than 79,000 asylum seekers to Norway in the given period.  Yet, in 2023 the citizens of Turkey, Russia and Iran have been granted 8800 visitor visas for Norway.

Pakistani applicants find themselves navigating a particularly challenging path. From securing appointments for visa submissions to assembling exhaustive documentation, the journey is fraught with hurdles that extend far beyond the standard requirements. These additional burdens, often involving comprehensive background checks and documentation of every detail, create an arduous ordeal for visa seekers from Pakistan.

In the light of these challenges, biased decisions on visa applications serve as a disheartening blow to applicants from Pakistan. Despite the painstaking efforts and resources invested in the application process, the spectre of bias looms large, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the prospects of approval. The disparity in treatment becomes all the more glaring when juxtaposed with the experiences of applicants from other nations. While Pakistani applicants contend with stringent requirements and prolonged processing times, their counterparts from other economically challenged countries often encounter a more streamlined and favourable visa adjudication process.

This discrepancy not only exacerbates the frustration and disillusionment felt by Pakistani visa applicants but also underscores deeper issues of inequity and injustice within the visa system. The inherent bias perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage, further marginalizing Pakistani nationals and hindering their access to opportunities for travel, study, work, and immigration.

The systemic bias against Pakistani visa applicants in Europe underscores the need for diplomatic reform and proactive engagement. It is imperative that responsible authorities in Pakistan and international organizations work together to address this issue and ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to pursue their aspirations on a level playing field. 

This disconcerting reality underscores a deeper issue: weak diplomatic relations between Pakistan and EU member states, as well as EU authorities. While other economically distressed nations receive relatively more favourable treatment in visa adjudication processes, Pakistani applicants find themselves disproportionately disadvantaged. The ramifications of such bias extend beyond mere inconvenience. They perpetuate a cycle of inequality, hindering opportunities for Pakistani citizens to explore educational, professional, and cultural exchanges in Europe. By unfairly limiting the mobility of Pakistani nationals, these practices impede not only individual aspirations but also broader initiatives for global cooperation and understanding.

Addressing this issue demands concerted efforts from both Pakistani authorities and international stakeholders. It necessitates proactive diplomacy aimed at fostering stronger ties with EU nations, advocating for fair and transparent visa policies, and dispelling misconceptions about Pakistan’s economic and social landscape. Moreover, it underscores the urgency of engaging in constructive dialogue to challenge discriminatory practices and ensure that all individuals, regardless of nationality, are afforded equal opportunities for travel and exploration.

By championing inclusivity and fairness in visa processes, we can work towards a more just and equitable world, where borders are not barriers but gateways to mutual understanding and collaboration.

The systemic bias against Pakistani visa applicants in Europe underscores the need for diplomatic reform and proactive engagement. It is imperative that responsible authorities in Pakistan and international organizations work together to address this issue and ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to pursue their aspirations on a level playing field. Only through collective action can we overcome barriers and build a more inclusive and equitable global community.

Bilal Zahoor
Bilal Zahoor
The writer is a freelance columnist

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