UK home secy speaks to HT on illegal migration; Nirav Modi, Mallya extradition and more
The new India-UK migration and mobility partnership and a proposed British law on migration will facilitate the movement of Indian professionals and simultaneously streamline the process of returning illegal migrants and offenders, British home secretary Priti Patel said in an interview with HT on Monday.
On the issue of Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya’s extradition, Patel said that “we’re in a legal process”. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Q. What do the UK and India hope to achieve through the Migration and Mobility Partnership signed during the India-UK Summit?
A: I used to come to India a lot in my ministerial capacity... and I used to receive a lot of umbrage about the lack of progress on mobility and migration issues. It was my determination, after becoming home secretary, and the prime minister’s conviction to really shift the relationship of India and the UK around mobility. I have to say it’s very much thanks to Boris Johnson, thanks to his vision and his leadership, and also to Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi’s conviction and leadership as well, to bring the two countries together to really move the needle. You’ve got two home ministries as well, with Amit Shah and myself in position, absolutely determined to make this work. We have created something that is unprecedented, we haven’t just taken something off the shelf, we have created a new bespoke and new reciprocal route for young professionals from the UK and India. Both our countries will benefit and that’s just so important, to benefit and take part in this new professional migration and mobility partnership, which will build upon our ‘living bridge’... the diaspora community and the flow of what we’ve had before. But this is fundamentally different.
Of course, this is a key pillar of the 2030 Roadmap but this will work through mutual recognition and working together. From my side, I am now working with colleagues in the MEA’s office and the Indian high commission to make this practical and not just sort of say, here we have a partnership and isn’t that fantastic. It is fantastic but we will make sure that this builds upon the benefits that have come together from, for example, something else that I did last year for India’s benefit, which will be the points-based immigration system. At some stage, when we publish the figures on the new points-based immigration system, you will see that India is benefiting enormously from this because it’s a professional route. I’ve always spoken about the professional people of India, the close ties, the living bridge, clearly I understand this perhaps more than others but really channelling and bringing together these strands have made this mobility partnership unique and so beneficial to India and the UK, economically and professionally in terms of skills and actually cementing the bond between our two countries which is really important.
As I said, this is unprecedented and the ways of working around this are unprecedented. The fact that I’m as plugged into the high commission here, working the teams there who are working with my teams here...same with the MEA’s office, [external affairs minister S] Jaishankar and the work of his team plugged into my policy team here. So it’s seamless on that basis. This isn’t just some kind of agreement that we’ve signed and then we’ve sort of ticked the box and move on. This is a living, live agreement and it speaks to the roadmap and our values that we have as two countries working together.
Q. Do you expect to deliver on the April 2022 timeframe for implementing the Migration and Mobility Partnership?
A: Yeah, totally, absolutely, no question about that. There is no delay. We started work the minute after we signed the agreement last Tuesday. So, follow up with our colleagues at the high commission already. I have to emphasise that we have the level of pro-activity and positivity on both sides, it’s really the key driver to all of this. This is not static, this is living, we are absolutely determined not just to make this work but this new route will be the roadmap for us in terms of enhanced mobility and an enhanced relationship for decades to come. The fact that in the 18 months that I’ve been home secretary, we’ve been able to energise the mobility discussions and the relationship by putting propositions forward that my predecessors did not put forward. I have led that, obviously with the leadership of my prime minister and colleagues in India, especially the leadership of the prime minister of India as well.
Q. Have you addressed the issues that were holding up the return of illegal Indian migrants, and is there a ballpark figure for the number of people who would be coming back to India?
A: I’m not going to disclose figures because that takes time to work through them. But there are many technical barriers, let me just be clear about this, and legal barriers that prevent us from returning people. Part of that is our system, it is very much our system...[on Tuesday] we have the state opening of Parliament in the UK. We will pass new legislation around illegal migration. It’s a big reform that I will be bringing in as home secretary which will facilitate the path for Indian nationals to be returned back to India. So we have many legal obstacles in the UK, I’m not going to sugar-coat that. These legal obstacles end up in the courts, people will use appeal, it is a complete legal merry-go-round. We are going to streamline much of that and bring new efficiencies and new transparencies and new accountability around that. So that will absolutely help with the ways of working between both our governments and with the high commission over travel authorisation documents, identifying individuals – all these things which are just wrapped up in endless bureaucracy and process. We are going to streamline that and make it much clearer on both sides because if we don’t, then we harbour people that obviously the Indian government want to have sent back and it works both ways. Which brings me on to not just illegal migration but some of the extradition challenges that we have faced over years, and even in my tenure of 18 months as home secretary, we have already energised and changed that relationship between the UK and India in respect of extradition – that has improved, it has absolutely improved in a way that benefits both our countries. It’s no point us having people sitting on both sides in both countries that we can’t send back to get on and deal with some of these really naughty, very serious and criminal issues.
Q. Have the two sides agreed on documentation and processes to identify illegal migrants?
A: We absolutely know what is needed in terms of process, identification, documentation, how we can remove people, how we can return people. This is case by case and it takes a long time but we have ways in which we can literally streamline a lot of this. But it is intense, we will work with the high commission here, we will work with the MEA’s office. The way of working that we are proposing is unprecedented because it speaks for the commitment that both sides have to bring about the changes that both governments want to see.
Q. Could we have clarity on the issue of the extradition of Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya? In the case of Mallya, the UK has said the extradition is being held up by a confidential legal issue but there is speculation here that he has applied for asylum.
A: Speculation will always exist. What I will say – you’ve already heard me speak about some of the complexities [and] legalities around illegal migration. That equally applies here in both these cases. I ordered on April 15 the extradition of Nirav Modi and...that’s in the public domain. He has indicated that... he’s appealing on extradition. So, instantly, we’re in a legal process. So, I can’t comment further on any of that whatsoever.
In a similar vein, with Vijay Mallya’s case, there’s an ongoing legal case. I can’t sit and share with you the ins and outs of all of that because that would prejudice the case. That’s not right and I don’t want to do that. So I can’t comment on that but what I would say to you and your readers – two things, first of all, I have changed that relationship between the UK government and the Indian government in respect of extradition. I understand the seriousness of these cases, I understand the desire as to why India, you know, it’s the same for us – there are individuals in India that we want to be returned and extradited to the UK. So that is changing fundamentally but alongside that, where we have legal challenges, clearly we have to work with the courts and that is what we’re doing because we need to have just outcomes. There are legal processes and the fairness and the firmness that comes with those legal processes need to be respected. So we are absolutely clear of the importance and the significance of these cases and quite rightly, we want them to progress as swiftly as possible. It serves no purpose to keep having these cases tied up within the legal wrangling. We are absolutely working with the persistence that we have and we understand the significance of all these cases.
Q. Has the UK discussed with the Indian side the case of Christian Michel, especially after he wrote to the British government following the report of a UN panel of experts that his detention in India is arbitrary?
A: If you don’t mind, it’s not for me to disclose what is discussed in private meetings...there’s plenty of engagements around cases of that nature with FCDO [UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] and those engagements will continue.