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Seminar at the Taj, Chandigarh: Migration - Myths and Realities ... One Year On

by Anil Malhotra


A seminar titled ‘Migration - Myths and Realities...one year on’ was held at the Taj, Chandigarh by the British High Commission in association with Anil Malhotra and Ranjit Malhotra. The seminar was inaugurated by Lord Diljit Rana, Member of House of Lords, UK and Honorary Consul General of the Government of India in Belfast. Mr. H.S. Mattewal, Advocate General, Punjab also graced the occasion.


Lord Rana with the DeputyHigh Commissioner, Mr. Butler,British High Commission and other dignitories who participated in the seminar.

In the inaugural session, Mr. Creon Butler, Deputy High Commissioner, British High Commission, New Delhi gave the welcome address and the theme of the seminar was presented by Mr. Anil Malhotra. The inaugural address was delivered by Lord Rana and Mr. Mattewal gave details of the forthcoming new Punjab Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, 2008. The concluding remarks were made by Mr. Ranjit Malhotra, Honorary Consular Correspondent of Italy for Punjab and Chandigarh.

This was followed by a theatre presentation by Culture Connect, which presented a skit on illegal immigration. Thereafter, a film on the pitfalls of Human Trafficking made by Mr. Savyasaachi Jain, Executive Producer, IntegriTV for UNODC was screened and Sukrit an NGO gave its report of an outreach programme on illegal immigration.

A highly distinguished 7 Member Panel participated in a very interactive discussion compered by Anil Malhotra. The panelists in the session included Mr. H.S. Mann from the Punjab Police, Mr. H.S. Mattewal, Advocate General, Punjab, Lord Diljit Rana, Member of House of Lords, UK, Ms. Venku Murthi, Vice President VFS Global Services Limited, Ms. Natalie Hearn, First Secretary, Migration Policy, Mr. Gary Lewis from United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and Mr. Rahul Kumar, Resident Editor, Economic Times.

Senior Diplomats from the Canadian Consulate, Italian Embassy, German Embassy and British High Commission also participated. Students from Army Institute of Law, Mohali, University Institute of Legal Studies and Law Faculty, Panjab University and Educational Complex, Sanghol participated. A large number of lawyers, law faculty professors, representatives of NGOs and officials of the Punjab Government including Dr. B.C. Gupta, IAS, Home Secretary Punjab and Mr. D.S. Saroya, Deputy Secretary, NRI Affairs also participated in the event.


Lord Rana ligting the lamp at the inauguration of the seminar. Mr Anil Malhotra (left) and the British High Commissioner also took part in the eremony

The impact of the new Punjab Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, 2008 was discussed at length alongwith the global implications of illegal immigration from Punjab. This is the second event held by the British High Commission in Chandigarh in association with M/s Malhotra and Malhotra Associates. A large number of interactive audience members, quizzed the panelists on various issues of illegal immigration.

The seminar ended with a reception at the Taj hosted by the organizers.

INTRODUCTION

As per report on Wilton Park Conference WP 890, “Migration : Towards a Comprehensive Approach” held at Euro Forum, Spain in October 2007, it was recorded that “Migration affects every country in the world, and we can expect its importance to grow, impacting on international relations, foreign policy, and the global economy. Today, migrants comprise 4 per cent of the global population. According to the United Nations (UN), between 1960 and 2005, the number of people living away from their country of origin has more than doubled: from 75 to 191 million. Fifty nine per cent live in high-income countries. Since the 1960s, there has been an almost equal distribution across three of the migration routes: north-north - 53 million; south-south - 61 million; and south-north - 62 million. This compares to 14 million migrating from the north to the south. The European Union (EU) currently has the largest number of migrants, making up 33 per cent of its population.”

As per the European Commission’s latest proposals on Integrated European Border Management of March 2008 “there are 1792 designated external border crossing points with controls in the EU. Of these 665 are air borders, 871 are sea borders and only 246 are land borders.” These are all apart from the illegal borders human ingenuity open’s everyday for the purposes of human trafficking & people smuggling.

Over 11 years ago, on the night of December 25, 1996, more than 300 persons drowned in the Ionian sea, off the coast of Malta while they were being smuggled across the Mediterranean. Their ship collided with a smaller boat which was unauthorisedly meant to transport them ashore. Reportedly, 170 of them were illegal immigrants from Punjab and ironically their bodies still lie on the sea-bed in their watery graves in international waters. Sorrowfully, travel agents who had smuggled them out still feed a myth to their kith and kin that they may be alive somewhere in the Continent. Regardless, human smuggling and trafficking goes on unabated in Punjab.


A group photo of participants with Lord Daljit Rana from Britain in the centre

In this sea of misery and despair, the efforts of the Government of Punjab to enact the Punjab Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, 2008 is a welcome step forward in contrast to the existing Emigration Act, 1983 which neither addresses the problem nor provides any solution to this unfortunate illegal trade of human lives. On March 23, 2007, the British High Commission launched a campaign from Chandigarh to educate the youth about the perils of illegal migration. One year on, now, on March 28, 2008, they are back with charged vigour and vehemence to reiterate their message in another seminar which has additional flavours of film presentations and a culture connect performance followed by a high powered panel discussion.

A. BASIC FEATURES OF INDIAN IMMIGRATION SCENARIO

WTO Study says that India is seventh largest country in the world with a population of one billion people which accounts for 16.7% of the world population.

25 million persons of Indian origin live in 110 countries abroad. 400,000 Indians immigrate every year.

Interpol study “Marco Polo” reports that India is one of the countries accounting for the largest number of illegal immigrants coming to western Europe and UNODC has commissioned a special study on this issue.

A multi-million dollar illegal immigration racket where 20,000 to 30,000 USD is charged by unscrupulous agents to send gullible Indians abroad flourishes in India, unabated and unchecked. Three examples are cited

In 1996, 289 South Asians including 170 Indians from Punjab found a watery grave in the Ionian Sea in their voyage of illegal immigration to Europe.

UNODC quoted Indian- American Centre for Political Awareness in U.S.A. to inform that 73 men from Punjab duped by employment agents in Punjab landed in Tehran after a 1500 mile journey on foot. They were frost-bitten and their toes had to be amputated.

On June 24, 2007, Indian Police apprehended an agent with 300 fake travel documents including 25 forged passports, 114 fake visas of Schengen countries and duplicate passports with fake identities.

UNODC committed to combating global human trafficking estimates that about 2 million migrants cross international borders without authorization every year. The reasons for this in India are high population growth, increasing unemployment rate, quest for a better economic life and for improvement in status besides seeking professional growth in life.

U.K. Visas in India deals with 450,000 applications every year. About 366,000 visas were issued last year. 80% illegal immigration from India takes place from Punjab. Over 500,000 illegal immigrants from India live in U.K. alone & thousands from Punjab attempt to sneak into U.K. every year.

The problem is not in Punjab alone. About 400,000 illegal workers from Andhra Pradesh without passports, travel documents or visas live in labour camps in UAE desperate to be jailed to enable their return to India.

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