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More Indians coming to UK illegally in boats

LONDON: The latest UK home office statistics show that the number of Indians crossing the English Channel on small boats has shot up in the first three months of this year, making them now the second-biggest cohort after Afghans. It has also emerged that the majority of Indians entering the United Kingdom illegally via boats were from Punjab, apparently attracted by job opportunities in Britain. Between January 1 and March 31, 2023, a total of 3,793 people arrived via small boats, of which the most common nationality was Afghans (909, 24%) followed by Indians (675, 18%), the new data shows. The number of Indians almost matches the total number that arrived in 2022 – when 683 Indian citizens crossed the English Channel illegally from France on small boats. Indians then only made up the 10th-largest nationality. The majority of the Indian migrants coming on small boats to Britain are from Punjab, Delhi and Gujarat, with the majority being Punjabi, said Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director of NAPA (North American Punjabi Association), who assists illegal Indian migrants across the world. “They are all male aged 18 to 35. The main reason is employment and they see the future is bright in the UK. They cannot find the way to come legally as employment visas are hard to get for the UK,” he told TOI from California. He said the common route was to get a legal tourist visa for France, Greece or Serbia, and then cross the English Channel from Calais illegally in a dinghy. “It is not very difficult to get a visa for Serbia or Greece. They pay agents large sums and they arrange a visa for them,” he said. He said the agents have offices in places like Chandigarh, Jalandhar and Delhi and they subcontract to unlicensed sub-agents in villages and towns in Punjab. Once in the UK, they apply for asylum. In 2022 a total 3,248 Indian citizens made claims for asylum in Britain though only 4% of them were successful at the initial decision. Those turned down, however, could still appeal. Indians are now the ninth top nationality to make asylum claims. While waiting for their asylum application to be processed, they work illegally in restaurants or agriculture. “If they don’t know English, they might work with a Punjabi businessman or wash dishes in restaurants,” he added. A recent week-long crackdown on illegal working by delivery drivers from major firms resulted in 60 arrests across London and the south and Indian nationals were among those arrested. Home office teams arrested moped drivers of Brazilian, Indian and Algerian nationality for offences that included holding illegal employment and possession of false documentation.

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