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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

‘American dream’ shattered, horror of heavy debt haunts Indians deported from Mexico

Deep said he saw three people die before his eyes, in the Panama forests and many comrades, of his group of 23, fall ill

chandigarh Updated: Oct 21, 2019 09:25 IST
Avtar singh
Avtar singh
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Indian deportees in the Panama forest.
Indian deportees in the Panama forest.(HT PHOTO)
         

Sandeep Singh alias Deep, 23, from Moonak town in Sangrur district, had left for America from New Delhi on June 13 this year to make a better life for himself. Little did the Punjabi youngster know that his American dream would soon lay shattered, as Mexican immigration authorities deported him, along with 311 Indians on a chartered flight to India, on Friday.

Describing his dangerous ordeal, Deep said he saw three people die before his eyes, in the Panama forests and many comrades, of his group of 23, fall ill. The Sangrur man said he began his passage from Ecuador to Mexico from where he wanted to cross over to the US but was caught at Veracruz refugee camp and his ‘mission America’ was cut short by Mexican authorities.

“It is the first time in history that Mexico has deported people. We went to several countries legitimately and reached the first refugee camp at Tapachula in Mexico after facing many difficulties. If I two more days, I would have crossed the Mexico-US border,” Sandeep, who returned home on Saturday, told HT.

 Also Watch | Over 300 Indians deported by Mexico arrive in New Delhi

He said the seeds of hi misadventure were sown when Capt Amarinder Singh disbanded truck unions across the state after forming the government in 2017. Sandeep’s father Mukhtiar Singh was compelled to sell off two of his four trucks as the business was poor. The transporter decided to send his graduate son to America. His father took a loan of Rs16 lakh for the trip to America but his hopes were shattered on Friday morning when he received Sandeep’s phone call from Delhi Airport saying, “I have been deported to India”.

“The journey was arduous and dangerous. I first reached Ecuador, then Medellin. I had to cross the Panama forests which took 6 days,” Deep recalls.

To their horror, the group faced hunger, thirst and several ailments as they crossed Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala by buses, taxies and boats. One man from Rajpura and two from Kaithal (Haryana) died on their way to Mexico, he said, adding that they saw many dead bodies and people suffering from dangerous diseases.

Ironically, the victims have no complaints against travel agents, and blamed the state government instead, for failing to provide jobs which compelled them to take the risk.

“Drugs are easily available in Punjab but there are no jobs. I wanted to join the army but I was not selected. However, I was growing older and I had to take a decision. Punjabi youths have no option except to go abroad. However, all of us, the 311 deported people, are ‘dead’ anyway. We have all taken loans or sold our land. The debt haunts us more and more, every day,” he added.

Another 22-year-old youth from Samana of Patiala had a similar story to share. He spent Rs22 lakh but could not reach US. “I struggled for seven months but eventually I was deported. I am stressed as I fail to see a future in Punjab after this disappointment. It was a very disturbing experience,” the youth told HT, on the condition of anonymity.