2 boys held in Columbia: Embassy tries to repatriate | punjab | Hindustan Times
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2 boys held in Columbia: Embassy tries to repatriate

Even as the Indian Embassy in Bogota, Columbia, is making attempts to repatriate two teenagers of the district who were arrested recently for travelling to the South American country without visas, their parents back home are allegedly dilly-dallying over arranging tickets for their wards.

punjab Updated: Nov 18, 2014 22:39 IST
Harpreet Kaur

Even as the Indian Embassy in Bogota, Columbia, is making attempts to repatriate two teenagers of the district who were arrested recently for travelling to the South American country without visas, their parents back home are allegedly dilly-dallying over arranging tickets for their wards.

The minors, Harjit Singh and Manjot Singh, both aged 16, who hail from Hoshiarpur’s Dasuya subdivision, are being taken care of by Beinstar Familiar, an NGO, but the Mission says they are indulging in unruly behaviour and hence it was not safe to keep them with other children for long.

The Mission believes it to be another case of human trafficking. Their parents’ reluctance to call them back and the boys’ insistence to remain in the country strengthens this. The Mission in Bogota has requested the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), New Delhi, to urgently take up the matter with the Punjab government.

It has also written directly to Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal and IG in-charge of Punjab police’s NRI wing, Gurpreet Deo, seeking their intervention in the matter.

The Mission suspects the involvement of one Armando who had allegedly called the boys to Medallin, about 450 kilometres from Bogota to arrange their passage to USA or Canada. Ambassador Parbhat Kumar has written to the MOIA, to ask the Punjab government to trace the man believed to be in the state on the basis of his Indian mobile number.

As per the official communiqués accessed by HT, Manjot Singh (D.O.B: 7.11.98) and Harjit Singh (D.O.B: 18.06.1998) were arrested by the Colombian Migration when they entered Colombia via Ecuador. (The latter offers “on arrival” visa facility). Both of them travelled on the Delhi-Addis Ababa-Sao Paulo-Quito flight in the first week of September and entered Columbia by road in the third week.

They were taken to the Indian Mission on October 28 by officials of Beinstar Familiar. The Mission authorities spoke to their parents on phone and asked them to send air tickets to facilitate their wards’ return to India but the latter insisted that the boys be sent to Ecuador. The authorities refused stating that since the two were minor and had entered Columbia illegally they could not be allowed to leave.

The Columbian Migration authorities have built pressure on the Indian Consulate in Bogota to arrange for immediate repatriation of the illegal migrants. The Indian Consulate in turn is pursuing the matter with the Indian government.

Manjot’s family could not be contacted but Parwinder Singh, Harjit’s uncle, said they had confirmed a ticket for their ward’s return journey from Quito to Delhi.

“Harjit had left for Ecuador for sightseeing and to do a course in Spanish language but he was arrested by the police. We received a call from the embassy a few days ago asking us to arrange an air ticket for our son. We have arranged one,” he claimed.

Parwinder admitted that the family knew Armando. “He is a friend. He met Harjit in Ecuador but then probably he came back to India,” he said.

The ambassador has expressed concern at the spurt of illegal immigration of Indian nationals to Latin American countries. “We have been bringing this to the notice of MOIA and MEA from time to time to take stringent action against the trafficking agents in India...the activities of unscrupulous agents in India are with the connivance of their handlers in Ecuador, Columbia and other Latin American countries. Unless strict action is taken against these agents in India, their activities will continue unabated,” the ambassador has written to the MEA.

Ravinder Nath, first secretary in the Bogota embassy, informed HT that Migration Columbia in January this year had arrested three Punjabi minors with forged Columbian passports. Two of them arranged air tickets for themselves but never reached India.

The family of the third illegal immigrant also sent ticket for Bogota-Mexico-Amsterdam-Istanbul-New Delhi flight but when he reached Mexico, his ticket was was cancelled by the family and an alleged human trafficker tried to smuggle him out of the airport to facilitate his migration to the USA. But the authorities scuttled the attempt and sent the minor back to Bogota where he was kept under the care of a juvenile organisation.

On persistent efforts of the Hoshiarpur administration, the family arranged air ticket for the boy in March but when he was taken to the airport it was found that the ticket was not paid for, he added.

”It was obvious that the family did not want the boy back. Since Migration Columbia could not keep him any longer, the Mission had to pay for his ticket. Even then, the boy tried to tamper with his passport. When at last he was made to board the plane, he lied to the airport staff at Panama that he did not have the passport which on a thorough search was recovered from his luggage,” the official informed. “The callousness of the parents and audacity of the minors to take such risks is shocking,” he added.