‘Punjab doing little to root out illegal immigration’


Chandigarh : The latest sting operation on illegal immigrants in Britain has exposed a well-oiled network in human trafficking from Punjab, but the state authorities do not seem bothered about taking corrective measures at the ground level, say those involved in highlighting the fraud.

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Despite scores of tragic stories every month of men, women and even children being trafficked, the number of illegal immigrants from Punjab continues to rise.

Congress legislator from Qila Raipur, Jassi Khangura, who gave up his British citizenship in 2006 to come back to Punjab, says the state government lacks the will power to stop illegal immigration. Khangura has been involved with several activities to curb illegal immigration.

“The BBC investigation has shown how sophisticated the network is. The Indian and British governments have to initiate action at their respective ends. Effective measures need to be taken on the Indian side,” Khangura said.

In an undercover investigation in Britain, the BBC has exposed a London-based criminal network that used fake passports, identity documents and human carriers to bring in illegal migrants, mostly from Punjab, into Britain.

These immigrants were settled in around 40 safe houses in Southall, home to a large concentration of immigrants from India. Nearly all of the illegal migrants – called “faujis” in criminal parlance – are said to be from Punjab.

Khangura told IANS here: “Given my experience, this illegal immigration is going to create such a mess that the British and other authorities will become very strict about immigration, and the genuine people will suffer.”

“Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and the Punjab Police know of the brokers in all corners of the state but don’t want to take action. It is not difficult to identify people who are playing fraud with hundreds of youths by taking millions of rupees with the promise of taking them to western countries,” he added.

The two passport offices at Chandigarh and Jalandhar, which cater to the state, and the latest one at Amritsar which opened this month, are already termed as “passport factories”. The Chandigarh and Jalandhar passport offices churned out 350,000 passports in 2007.

There have been several reported incidents of youths being killed in other countries, especially in eastern Europe and in Africa, after being abandoned there by fake travel agents.

Punjab-based Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) and its president, former union minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, has been highlighting scores of immigration frauds from the state in recent years.

The LBP has been highlighting incidents of fake travel and immigration agents defrauding the youth of millions of rupees, women being cheated in marriage by fake grooms who come to Punjab for ‘holiday marriages’ and then run away, and several other immigration frauds. There are over 15,000 abandoned brides in Punjab, most of them young girls.

A recent trend in Punjab is to lure young girls with the promise of immigration and then to sell them to people abroad or force them into prostitution in other countries.

“Involving girls in this illegal trade is a dangerous trend,” Ramoowalia had said earlier.

The LBP had said that over 500 fake immigration agents had cheated Punjab youth of Rs.20 billion in recent years. It pointed out that 50,000 duped families, many of whom had sold their land, properties and earnings to the fake agents in return for passports, were crying for help.

It pointed out that over 15,000 Punjabi youth were languishing in prisons in other countries after they were abandoned there by unscrupulous travel agents and arrested for staying illegally. The LBP claims that over 1,500 youth from Punjab have already been killed or are missing in other countries after being dumped there illegally.

According to the UN office on drugs and crime (UNODC) estimate, smuggling of human beings is an illegal business that generates estimated gross earnings of $5-7 billion annually.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 6,131 human trafficking cases in 2005.

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by threat or use of force, by abduction, fraud or deception, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour.