Immigration racket will ruin Punjab



An SOS from several young boys from Iraq – who were lured into immigration by unscrupulous agents from Punjab a few months ago – has brought the issue of human trafficking back into focus.

More than two dozen boys have approached the Indian mission in Baghdad for help and have been waiting for a chance to return for more than two weeks. They have alleged that they were forced to clear defused and live ammunition for preparing fields for agriculture.

While efforts have been under way – including the intervention of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to facilitate their return – there appears to be no check on the agents who lure gullible young men. An estimated 15,000 Punjabi youth have been languishing in prisons in other countries for staying illegally, but no agent in Punjab is ever convicted for sending them abroad. The police too deal with such complaints as mere cases of fraud. The cases eventually lead nowhere since complainants fail to prove that they paid money to the agent.

There are several reasons for the thriving human trafficking racket under the garb of immigration.

People in Punjab are so obsessed about going abroad that they don’t verify the agents’ antecedents. Young men, who fail to get jobs here, approach these unscrupulous touts. They pay them in cash without any receipt.

These agents put them across to some licensed immigration agencies in big cities in Punjab or Chandigarh for further processing their travel papers. The men remain oblivious to the identity of the persons processing their documents.

In many cases, the agents send the men to countries which offer visa on arrival. When they find out that they have been cheated and apprise their families in India, the cops do not take the issue seriously.

Amid police inaction, protests by illegal immigrants’ kin demanding their return from various countries across the globe are common. Those who manage to return also reconcile with the system and enter into a “compromise” with the agents and agree not to complain against them in return for some money.

The young men who went to Iraq were promised $ 800 every month. Much to their shock, they were kept in inhuman conditions and some of them were not paid any money for months.

Their immigration information – including their flight details – are on record. They have also managed to send their passport numbers from Iraq to verify the same for action against the agents. Police and other authorities can use the travel details to verify that they actually travelled to Iraq under a legal arrangement.

The agents named by some of these men admit only to have arranged tickets for them. They deny any involvement in their immigration. They also claim that they do not recognise the men.

The government has done nothing to crack down on these devious immigration shops. The state government had promised to curb illegal immigration. The Legislative Assembly had passed the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Bill in October 2010.

Misrepresentation of facts, inducing, alluring or cheating young men to immigrate is punishable under the Act. Immigration agents are also barred from advertising and holding seminars without informing the authorities.

The Punjab government had sent the Bill for presidential consent but its status is not known.

Isn’t it time to set the ball rolling to enact a deterrent law?


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