Diplomats, by the very definition of their job, are meant to weigh their words very carefully. The Nigerian diplomat who spoke of reprisals against Indians working in Nigeria for the crackdown on Nigerians illegally overstaying in Goa is clearly oblivious of this.
The Nigerians in Goa protesting the tardy pace of investigations against those responsible for the murder of one of them are quite right in raising this issue.
But this in no way justifies staying on in a country illegally. It is also unfortunate that many of them who are here legitimately have been tarred with the same brush as those caught bringing in narcotic drugs. At the risk of being accused of prejudice, a disproportionate number of those caught smuggling narcotic drugs into India are of Nigerian origin.
Other nationalities are also in this illegal trade; it is only that they are getting away with it more often.
The Manohar Parrikar government is right in saying that it would continue its operations against those Nigerians who are staying illegally in the state.
But at the same time, it should widen its scope to include all those who are there on false pretexts. There are large mafias of Russian origin, for example, which have taken over sizeable portions of beaches and other real estate. Some of these individuals have even gone to the extent of barring locals from entering their eateries.
They are also involved in all manner of illegal dealings. The authorities should take this opportunity to target these criminal gangs.
However, the government cannot escape the blame for allowing things to come to such a pass. If it had been vigilant, there would be no need for these operations against any nationality.
Since the target group is Nigerian there are bound to be allegations of racism. This is not surprising considering that many Indians are indeed racist when it comes to colour and nationality. People of African origin find it hard to find rental homes and are generally subject to racial abuse. The same is the case with our own nationals from the northeast.
India has enough problems with illegal immigrants, notably from Bangladesh. It really needs to strengthen its screening process and the systems that enable the authorities to track foreigners who have entered the country on short duration visas. But this should not be used as a weapon to harass students or those who have come here to work.
The Goa fiasco shows the unfortunate consequences of addressing these issues only when it is almost too late. It causes bad blood among countries and makes people of a particular nationality targets of discrimination thanks to poor vigilance and the misdemeanours of a few bad eggs.