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Illegal migration worries West
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20 April 2007
New Delhi, India
BJP member of Parliament Babubhai Katara's arrest has catapulted the debate over illegal migration into the spotlight and attracted the concern of countries that are the preferred destinations for a large number of migrants from Punjab.
The regional office for South Asia of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has said that many of the illegal immigrants from India into Western Europe have been identified to belong to the state of Punjab and reported to be taken to the developed countries in Western Europe through Russia and Eastern European countries.
The British high commission in New Delhi recently organised an "outreach activity in Punjab" to make potential migrants aware of the realities of illegal migration. Britain has also come out with a document, Enforcing the Rules: A Strategy to Ensure and Enforce Compliance with our Immigration Laws, which seeks to address the issue of illegal migration.
The Canadian high commission told this newspaper that individuals are issued temporary resident visas based on the information available to the visa officer at the time of issuance. "The Canadian high commission does not comment on individual visa cases [but] if new information comes to light after visa issuance, such as an inappropriate or illegal use of a document issued by the Canadian high commission, every effort is made to intercept and cancel the document. Canada, like India, takes visa fraud and the illegal movement of people very seriously," it said.
Mr Katara was bound for Canada.
European diplomatic sources, in turn, told this newspaper that "cases of fraud" have been reported in the past. "It is a big problem. Cases of fraud exist and it (Babubhai Katara's arrest) does not come as a surprise," a source said. Another source said that Europe is confronted with the "challenge" of illegal migration from South Asia. "All European (diplomatic) missions have to be careful because each mission is responsible for the other states," the source said.
The European Union and Russia have in the past suggested India to enter into a "re-admission agreement" with them so that illegal Indian migrants, a large number of whom enter Europe via Russia, could be repatriated.
The refrain in some European capitals is that if India wants a liberal visa regime for Indian individuals and businesses then Government of India must consider signing of re-admission agreement.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, India is among the top three migrant-sending countries.
Earlier this month, 24 Indians were among the several persons whom the International Organisation for Migration has repatriated. Each one of them had paid about Rs 4 lakhs to human traffickers, who promised to fly them to West Asia and Africa and thereafter by sea to western Europe. They were detained in the African nation of Mauritania, from where they were repatriated via Dubai.