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High no of Indian asylum seekers flummoxes Govt

It is being questioned whether all applicants, over 1750, in 2002 were really of Indian origin, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:24 IST

The large number of applications for political asylum from people claiming to be of Indian nationality has intrigued the British authorities who feel that with the rule of law and human rights commission in the country, there should be no compelling reason for so many applying for asylum here.

Tony Blair and Home Secretary David Blunkett had similarly conveyed their surprise to LK Advani during their meetings with him on Advani's last visit.

The issue was raised as to whether all the applicants, 2120 in 2000,1550 in 2001 and over 1750 in 2002 according to available figures, were really of Indian origin. Despite large number of applications from Indians, only five were approved in 2002, 20 in 2001 and40 in 2000. Over 2000 applications have reportedly been refused. Most seekers destroy their documents and therefore it becomes impossible to immediately know their real nationality.

This is why, recently, Home secretary David Blunkett has made destruction of travel documents a criminal offence that carries a two-year prison sentence. It has also been made compulsory for transit passengers to obtain a visa. This has been done to prevent people from melting away while the plane is at Heathrow and they come out to meet relatives or friends.

The restrictions have come in following the rise in the number of applications and also disappearances in recent years. In 1994 the number of applications were 2000, in 1997, there were 3225, in 1996, it was 2220 and then it fell in 1997 to 1255, in 1998 to 1030, in 1999 to 1065, but again climbed up in 2000 to 2120 to fall again to 1550 in 2001 and 1505 in 2002. This year in the second quarter there were 645 applications. These figures are approximate.

The authorities have become stricter also because people, specially from Punjab have tended to melt away. A source said it appeared that factories producing passports et al have mushroomed in cities like Jalandhar and Amritsar. He made the remark following the melting away of six women cricketers who had come here in a team of 16 from Jalandhar.

Three returned but three others are still missing, according to reports. Many so-called artistes, singers and dancers, ostensibly coming here to perform at concerts have also reportedly gone missing on arrival. It is said that they are forced into unsavoury professions.

Recently 16 Indians were caught by Customs while hidden in a truck. They have been released and referred to Immigration. But such problems have not inhibited the government from relaxing rules for skilled immigrants.

An impression is growing that most applicants are trying for what is being called "economic migration", that is they are looking for
better economic prospects.

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 21:33 IST