‘India and Britain need to stem illegal migration’

July 17th, 2008 - 6:44 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, July 17 (IANS) Indian-origin MP Virender Sharma Thursday called upon Indian and British authorities to work in tandem in order to check illegal migration after a BBC sting unearthed dozens of houses with illegal immigrants in his constituency of Southall. “The scale of the problem surprised me - I wasn’t aware of the scale,” Sharma, MP for the west London suburbs of Ealing and Southall, told IANS a day after BBC television reported discovering 40 ’safe houses’ with illegal migrants in a one square mile area.

“I went on a radio show this morning, and people said I should have known. But how does one tell an illegal immigrant from a newly-arrived immigrant? If other people know for certain, then it is their duty to inform the authorities. The (local) community need to understand that,” he said.

Sharma, who recently celebrated the first anniversary of his becoming an MP, said he had discussed the issue with Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma during a visit to New Delhi in January and wants to raise it with Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal over an upcoming trip.

“The problem is at both ends, and the Indian and British governments need to take coordinated action,” he added.

“I have written to him (Badal), seeking an appointment for August or September and am waiting for a response,” Sharma said.

Nearly all the immigrants in the BBC report were from Punjab - dubbed `fauji’ in criminal slang.

The MP said he had told Minister Sharma of the need for the central government to work closely with the state governments of Gujarat and Punjab in order to catch and punish immigration touts.

“The locals know who these touts are - they need to be arrested and punished severely,” the MP said.

Equally, he said it was important for the British authorities to crack down on Britain-based middlemen who helped forge documents and arranged for illegal immigrants to stay undetected in the country.

“The UK government takes immigration issues very seriously. Those who break the law should be caught and there should be a quick exit programme,” Sharma added.

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