Kidnappings of British Asians rising in Pakistan

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Media captionMr Iqbal was kidnapped in Pakistan and held for 19 days before a £15,000 ransom was paid by his family.

The number of British Asians being kidnapped for ransom in Pakistan is increasing every year, figures show.

Kidnappers targeted 22 people last year, following a year-on-year increase from eight in 2006, according to the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

North West MEP Sajjad Karim believes criminals in Pakistan are increasingly targeting visiting British Asians because they are seen as easy targets.

A spokesman for the High Commission for Pakistan denied this was the case.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) figures represent only the cases reported to the authorities.

'Horrendous situation'

Image caption MEP Sajjad Karim says proper systems are needed to safeguard British Asians

A spokesman acknowledged the true figure could be much higher.

He said: "We could be looking at the tip of the iceberg. There has been a steady increase. It is a trend that gives us cause for concern."

A number of families and community leaders have told the BBC that those involved are often too frightened to report the matter to the authorities.

Instead they decide to deal with it themselves, pay a ransom and return home to Britain.

Mr Karim, a solicitor and European Parliament legal affairs spokesman, has supported a number of British people whose relatives have been kidnapped or killed while visiting family in Pakistan.

He said: "Currently we have an absolutely horrendous situation in place whereby British Pakistanis are being actively targeted whilst they're in Pakistan because they are seen as an easy target."

He said the Pakistani justice system required victims to be present in the country in order for a case to proceed.

"Whilst these circumstances exist, Britons when visiting Pakistan are much more of a target. We need to put proper systems in place to ensure people don't simply get away with targeting British Pakistanis in this way."

Fears over corruption

In 2007, 28-year-old Bradford businessman Salman Sabir was kidnapped and killed in Karachi.

Four-and-a-half-years later his brother Ubaid Mughal is still fighting for justice.

The family has spent thousands of pounds travelling to and from Pakistan to attend court hearings.

"There are many many cases. It is very hard to get justice," said Mr Mughal.

A spokesman for the High Commission for Pakistan said 1.4 million Pakistanis travelled between the two countries each year and denied British Pakistanis were viewed as easy targets.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said cases like these were taken very seriously and work was being done at consular level to improve co-operation on the issue.

You can hear the full report on 5 live Investigates on Sunday 4 December at 21:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live.

You can also listen again via the 5 live website or by downloading the 5 live Investigates podcast.

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