India, UK to sign MoU for faster return of illegal migrants: Estimates of those affected vary widely

India will sign an MoU with the United Kingdom to enable the return of illegal Indian migrants within a month of their detection by authorities, an official said on Wednesday.

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju's visit to London along with a delegation on Wednesday is a step towards the move that could affect hundreds of Indians. The UK has consistently raised the issue of return of illegal migrants with India.

The Memorandum of Understanding comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed visit to the UK in March.

A Home Ministry official said: "The process was not streamlined yet. The British authorities will first identify the illegal migrants, inform the Indian authorities, followed by police verification back home. If the claims of the British authorities are found to be correct, then the travel documents of the person concerned will be readied and he/she deported by the UK authorities. This process will have a timeline of one month."

Hindustan Times reported that the memorandum will be signed on the British side by newly appointed minister for immigration Caroline Nokes. The report UK says that Indians the number of Indians living illegally in the country at more than 1,00,000.

India, UK to sign MoU for faster return of illegal migrants: Estimates of those affected vary widely

Representational image. AFP

It is worth noting that the estimates of illegal migrants varies to an astonishing degree. In 2016, UK Home Office visa information put the number at 2,782. If so, it would have been a stunning decrease from the BBC's 2008 estimate of 8,00,000 or campaign group Migration Watch's 2010 estimate of 11,00,000. A 2017 report in the Hindustan Times said that while there is no accurate estimate of the overall number of illegal migrants, a top UK government functionary put the number at more than 1,00,000. This number is more than twice that of the next country on the list (Nigeria). As far as Indian agencies are concerned, IANS reported that they have found that only 2,000 Indians were overstaying.

The BBC investigation had also revealed a network of young, poor, and usually male farmers from the Punjab who described themselves as faujis (soldiers). Many were working menial jobs in the UK to send their wages back home. A number of them were living on fake documents. Some had destroyed their real passports on arrival, in the hopes of slowing down any deportation efforts.

On the flipside, an economic downturn in the UK, coupled with stricter housing rules and hefty penalties for using illegal labour, means that there is a sharp decrease in jobs and housing options open to illegal immigrants, according to Quartz.

The Hindustan Times report also mentioned since biometric and other information is sought while seeking a British visa, the UK wants India to accept the details and start the deportion process. New Delhi wants the identity to be confirmed only after an investigation by Indian authorities. There have also been instances of Pakistani and Bangladeshi citizens being sought to be sent to India, which was averted after investigations established they were not Indians.

The official said the Indian delegation led by Rijiju is expected to ask Westminster to "spell out" its position in court on businessman Vijay Mallya's extradition. He said the UK had assured all possible help in the extradition requests by India. The MoU on sharing of criminal records is in line with a similar agreement signed with the US, the official said.

Rijiju is also expected to convey New Delhi's concerns on the continuing anti-India propaganda carried out by Sikh and Kashmiri extremist groups based in the UK that bear "serious repercussions on India's sovereignty". He will also discuss with his counterpart the issues of sharing information about crimes and criminals.

With inputs from IANS

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Updated Date: Jan 11, 2018 15:15:41 IST

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