PAKISTAN – Hundreds of World Youth Day hopefuls have been left disappointed by a Spanish government decision to suspend visas for Pakistan pilgrims.
According to the Spanish secretariat-general for World Youth Day (WYD), the ban was imposed to avoid an illegal immigrant problem.
“Many people from this country [Pakistan] have tried to stay in Europe after past WYD celebrations as illegal immigrants, that’s why the Spanish government has suspended the granting of visas,” the office said, adding that organisers are now deciding whether to refund “at least most of would-be participants’ money”.
Mr Azhar Sadiq, a Catholic youth leader, said eight members of his group had registered for World Youth Day, paying 17,000 rupees (S$240) each.
The Catholic Church is presently negotiating with the Spanish embassy to give visas to “deserving faithful”.
The vicar general of Karachi archdiocese says he holds individual churches responsible for the visa restriction on Pakistanis.
“Many small churches have issued approvals which have affected Catholic aspirants. Many of those who registered are above 30, are not even Church leaders and applied for their whole families,” he said.
The Spanish government should make sure that all pilgrims return, he added.
Mr Pervez Roderick, secretary of the Catholic Youth Commission, said the Pakistan political situation, lack of job opportunities and poor salaries were responsible for many youths wanting to leave the country.
“Still, the Catholic Church is a reliable sponsor for sending Pakistani delegations for international events. Most WYD pilgrims recommended by us have returned,” he said.
More than 340,000 young people from more than 170 countries have signed up for World Youth Day, which takes place from Aug 16-21 in Madrid. n UCANEWS.COM
Sri Lankan soldiers stand guard near displaced ethnic Tamils in Sri Lankan in 2009. CNS file photo