Six people of Indian origin who began their ill-fated journey from India to Canada via Britain have started year-long jail sentences in London for possessing forged UK passports and face deportation home.
The six, all from Indian Punjab, were seeking to fly to Canada from Birmingham, but were arrested and have been sentenced at the Warwick Crown Court. They were apprehended while seeking to board a Birmingham-Toronto flight that is considered "notorious" by local officials.
The six have all pleaded guilty to possessing false UK passports. Judge Richard Cole this week recommended that they all be deported after serving their sentences. First in the dock were Bal Singh, 29, Jagroop Singh Mann and Jagtar Singh, both 26.
Prosecuting lawyer Kathryn Roughton told the court how the three men each turned up at the check-in desk for an Air India flight to Toronto and presented British passports. When the passports were checked they were found to be forgeries and they were arrested.
Mann revealed that he had paid pounds 10,000 for transport from India to Canada, and had first been provided with an Indian passport for the journey to this country where he had then been given a British passport for the final leg.
Jagtar Singh told an identical story, although he had paid pounds 3,000. Bal Singh made no comment.
Susan Allen, defending lawyer, said: "This is a familiar case which one sees at Warwick these days." She claimed that all three men feared for their safety in their own country and had hoped to start new lives in Canada.
Jailing them, Judge Cole told them through an interpreter: "People who use passports falsely have to realise that that offence is taken very seriously, and has to be met by custody."
Next in the dock were Khushdeep Singh, 27, Sabhi Singh, 22, and Gursharnjit Singh, 29.
Roughton said they all managed to get past the check-in stage for the same Air India flight on the same day as the other three defendants. But as they headed to the departure lounge they had to go through a second passport control manned by Special Branch officers who spotted the forged British passports they were using.
When they were arrested all three accepted entering this country illegally in the backs of lorries. Gursharanjit Singh said he had been here for about 25 days before making his attempt to get to Canada, while the other two had arrived in the country six months earlier.
Air India officials insisted they had stringent check-in procedures and no passengers had been allowed to board the service with fake or stolen passports.