France Scuttles Journey of Plane Load of Illegal Indian Immigrants

4 Min
France Scuttles Journey of Plane Load of Illegal Indian Immigrants

Atul Cowshish

Working obviously on a tip off, a day before Christmas the French authorities detained a special flight carrying nearly 300 Indians who had boarded in Dubai en route to Nicaragua for eventual entry into the US—without valid documents. After two days of questioning, the plane, owned by a Romanian company, was flown to Mumbai minus a small group of five or so who were allowed to stay on to plead their case for ‘asylum’ in France—or wherever.

The Modi government claims to be eradicating all signs of ‘colonial mindset’ which includes an average Indian’s love for distant lands. Success seems miles away. The common Indian youth has not lost the will to migrate aboard. The wait for US visa is said to be running into several years. Most of the candidates are young people who may have applied for higher studies in the US but in the back of their mind is an opportunity to be a permanent US resident.

Though full facts about the failed flight of the Indians to the Central American country Nicaragua were not known, it does seem like a case of a failed attempt at human trafficking. It may not be wrong to guess that the intention was to enter the US illegally. India has a dubious distinction of sending one of the largest numbers of illegal immigrants to the US and many other developed countries. Most Indians see the US as the Land of Opportunities.

It is perhaps ironical that even as the Indian government goes on making tall claims about establishing ‘Ram Rajya’ in the country, an enviable level of prosperity, the number of Indian nationals going out of the country, both legally and illegally, has been rapidly climbing.

Many among the richest Indians have given up Indian passports to acquire citizenship of countries regarded as tax havens. But the rich Indians who fled the country also include a number of billionaire fugitives who bolted without returning bank loans of billons of rupees.

From time to time, the government tries to defend itself from the charge of deliberately allowing these fugitive billionaires to fly out of India by saying that efforts to get them back are continuing. But everybody knows that their return is most unlikely.  Some of them are said to be well connected politically.

While the money bags disappear with sack full of Indian taxpayers’ money, the tribe of trafficked Indians mostly comes from average or poor Indian homes. They mortgage their land and property and spend their life’s savings to pay the trafficker or the human smuggler to reach countries where they imagine— mistakenly—that they will become rich almost overnight.

It is deplorable that the present government in India which constantly pumps up the ‘nationalistic’ fervor among the masses has not been to check the uncontrolled lure of Indians for the rich foreign land. Worse still, despite the heavy dose of pride and culture administered on a daily basis, so many Indians seem to place certain foreign countries, including our one-time colonial masters and their allies, on a higher pedestal than their own.

The plain truth is that contrary to all the government propaganda, things have not been rosy for most of the countrymen, especially the youth.  Job opportunities have been shrinking and high-flying price escalation makes the daily grind even harder than it ever was.

Having said all that, one would also like to add that nothing more than lip service has been paid to the rise in the number of illegal migration from India. The people who arrange for the illegal journey of the Indians know that they are playing foul. Those who actually travel know that they are bypassing the legal procedures. And all this happens almost right under the nose of the government.

There are regular ‘travel agents’ who make arrangements for the passage to the foreign destination with the help of dubious documents. The so-called travel agencies which are suspected to be in cahoots with human traffickers have been in business for years. By now the government should have become wiser about their modus operandi. Many ‘travel agents’ shut their shop but were able to restart operations under a different name and address.

Posters advertising rapid English-speaking course and providing passport and visa facilitation can be seen plastered in many small towns which send most of the illegal immigrants. The services are offered at unreasonably high prices which should attract government attention.

While steps need to be taken within the country to control the outward flow of illegal immigrants, there is a problem about the legitimate immigration too. Certain foreign governments have policies which encourage people from countries like India to take up residence there. There are several tax havens which suit the Indian billionaires wanting to escape the reach of the law in India.

Almost alone among the rich, developed Western countries, Canada welcomes Indians because of shortage of workforce in the country. But where it becomes troublesome is that Canada also readily grants ‘asylum’ to Indians who claim threat to their freedom and life in India because of their religion. While it cannot be denied that the Muslim and Christian communities in the present day India do face discrimination and injustice, the same is certainly not true of the Sikhs who constitute the largest number of ‘asylum’ seeking Indians in Canada.

The Americans may be stricter than the Canadians in admitting foreigners who do not have proper documents, but their border posts, particularly on the Mexican border, are still not properly equipped to deal with an ever increasingly larger number of immigrants who come from not only South America but now frequently also include Indians. The border authorities in the US lack enough facilities, including manpower, to deal with the wave of arrivals within a reasonable time frame. As a result, many have to be detained and their cases go up for hearing by the proper authorities, which might take a long time. This provides an opportunity to the illegal immigrant to either disappear or eventually win the battle to stay on—and add to the ever swelling number of Indians who entered the country illegally.####