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200 arrested in Britain for overstaying visas, Indian nationals among them

The issue of illegal migrants was linked by Prime Minister Theresa May to improving the UK visa offer to Indians during her 2016 India visit.

world Updated: Aug 20, 2017 23:39 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
India-UK relations,Operation Magnify,Prime Minister Theresa May
A top UK government functionary revealed to Hindustan Times that Indians top the list of illegal migrants, accounting for more than twice the number of the next country on the list: Nigeria.(Reuters File)

Several Indian citizens are among 200 people arrested between January and June as part of a drive against employers hiring individuals without the right to work in the United Kingdom and landlords letting out properties to such individuals.

The issue of Indian citizens overstaying their visas or entering the country illegally over the years has been on top of the agenda of India-UK relations. London is keen to expedite the process of identifying and returning such people to India.

Official sources here said the 200 people were arrested as part of Operation Magnify that included officials from various agencies and involved conducting raids in 253 properties in places such as Leicester and London, housing individuals without the right to remain in the UK.

The issue of illegal migrants was linked by Prime Minister Theresa May to improving the UK visa offer to Indians during her 2016 India visit, hoping that the speed and volume of returns of Indian citizens who have no right to remain is expedited.

Official figures of illegal migrants are not released, but a top UK government functionary revealed to Hindustan Times that Indians top the list – more than 100,000 – accounting for more than twice the number of the next country on the list: Nigeria.

Others who overstayed their visas included workers from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and Albania, the sources said, and added that they were offered support to leave the country voluntarily — some Indians accepted the offer and left.

Landlords were fined up to £3,000 for every illegal worker found living in their houses. There have been several instances in the past of authorities discovering illegal immigrants living in cramped, unhygienic “beds in sheds” in gardens of houses, let out illegally.

Immigration minister Brandon Lewis said: “These operations show that we will not tolerate people living and working illegally in the UK. Illegal working cheats the taxpayer, has a negative impact on the wages of lawful workers and allows rogue employers to undercut legitimate businesses.

“Those unscrupulous landlords flout the rules by knowingly renting property to illegal migrants as an easy source of profit,” he added.

The gamut of immigration-related issues between India and the United Kingdom – including returning illegal migrants, extradition and visas – is to be addressed in a comprehensive agreement due to be signed during Lewis’ visit to New Delhi later this year.

The issue of returning Indians also figured in the recent talks between home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and the home office in London.

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 18:09 IST