33 illegal Indian immigrants, 121 Pakistanis sent back on US flight
Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) received an unscheduled flight on February 14. The aircraft, full of South Asian deportees, was dropping off 33 Indians allegedly living illegally in the United States, according to several people familiar with the matter.
An officer of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which handles airport security, said that the flight also had 121 Pakistanis, all illegal immigrants to the US, on board. The flight proceeded to Islamabad from New Delhi to drop off the Pakistani nationals, he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The flight landed at around 8:30 am on February 14. We were informed in advance about the movement of a large number of deportees. Officials from the external affairs ministry were present and facilitated the movement. After completing the formalities, the passengers were sent to their respective states,” the CISF officer added.
A second CISF officer who asked not to be identified added that while Indians are deported in batches of two and three from time to time, “this is probably the first time that a special plane full of south Asian deportees landed at Delhi airport”.
The flight departed for Islamabad at 11.30am.
An officer of Delhi Police corroborated the information, and said that no case has been registered against any of the Indians.
“It was a chartered plane meant to transport deportees. We register cases only when a passenger cheats Indian immigration, which was not in the case in this incident,” said the Delhi Police officer on condition of anonymity.
A US embassy spokesperson in New Delhi said that the mission doesn’t comment on law enforcement matters, but enjoys a “warm relationship” with India on dealing with such issues.
“The United States and India regularly work together to address transnational crimes. However, as a matter of policy, we do not comment on law enforcement matters,” the spokesperson said.
The US has started an increased vigil on illegal migrants under the Trump administration. President Donald Trump issued an executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” on January 25, 2017 directing “agencies to employ all lawful means to ensure the faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens”.
Subsequently, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two Implementation Memorandums dated February 20, 2017 which instruct all DHS personnel to “initiate enforcement actions against removable aliens encountered during the performance of their official duties.”
Usually, those who have been involved in any criminal conduct or pose a risk to public safety or national security have been prioritised for arrest and removal by the US government.
An Indian government official who is familiar with the deportation of the illegal migrants said: “We facilitate safe return of undocumented Indians from time to time after nationality verification,” and added that this particular incident or similar incidents have got nothing to do with the “Trump presidency”.
“Since 2014, 702 undocumented Indian nationals have been issued travel documents to enable their safe return to India,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told the Lok Sabha last July. This is the last available data on the deportation of illegal Indian migrants.