New Delhi: India is ready to take back illegal immigrants from the UK, if their nationality is adequately proven by the British government with proper documents and evidence, ThePrint has learnt.
According to sources, India believes that the Memorandum of Understanding on the India-UK ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement’, signed between the two countries Tuesday, is a “step in the right direction” as it brings in a system that will require the British government to properly ascertain that those being sent back are bona fide Indian nationals and not “non-Indians”.
The sources further noted that India had earlier insisted on the fact that the “identity and nationality” of the people that UK intends to send back have to be thoroughly verified.
Thus, both sides have now been able to find a “compromised solution which will follow a process” since this was an “irritant” in the India-UK relationship.
According to sources, the UK earlier “misunderstood” India’s position and believed that New Delhi was not willing to take back Indians who are residing in their country illegally. But with the signing of the MoU, the issue has been sorted.
Under this MoU, which was signed by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, the UK has agreed to create a new scheme on youth mobility under which, every year up to 3,000 young Indian professionals can avail employment opportunities in the UK for a period of two years without being subject to the labour market test.
This number can be expanded further, sources said, and in lieu with this, India will take back its illegal immigrants.
“India never encourages illegal migration. We are against illegal migration because I think that prejudices legal migration. So, the mobility and migration partnership is a comprehensive document where we will take back Indian nationals,” said Sandeep Chakravorty, joint secretary (Europe West) at the external affairs ministry, Tuesday.
He added: “It is our solemn duty that Indian nationals who are undocumented or are in distress abroad and are not being given nationality or residence permit have to be taken back and I think we’ll do that. So I think this agreement systematises that, but more than that, I think it creates opportunities for legal migration.”
“And I think that is the aspect we would like to focus and we would be very much keen to see that the numbers that have been offered by UK are increased in the future and large number of Indian professionals find opportunities in the UK,” Chakravorty further noted.
Process to be ‘swift & legal’
The UK government, meanwhile, is planning to conduct the entire exercise as “swiftly and legally” as possible.
“We want to do these things as swiftly as legally possible to do … on the element on illegal immigrants, I would like to say that we have opened up the route for young professionals. We don’t know how many young professionals will use it. That has started but we will have to see how this thing evolves,” Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, said at a press briefing Wednesday.
The envoy added, “I think that India is the first visa national country with whom we have offered that partnership. So it is something new because of the talent which India has.”
He also said that the process will not be easy as timelines, mechanisms and documentation are involved in this that needs to be looked at.
“In other words, you need to have efficient mechanisms — timelines and documentation that is to be used for these Indian nationals. I mean our aim is to have a flow of talent between the two countries and I think I am right in saying India is by far the biggest user of work visas of any country in the world for the UK. Nearly 50 per cent of all our work visas go to Indian nationals,” he said.
The UK government has also said that the ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership’ MoU will protect those who migrate lawfully to the UK by “enhancing cooperation in combatting organised immigration crime and speeding up returns of visa overstayers”.
What does the MoU say?
According to the MoU, India will “facilitate the readmission of their nationals who do not meet or no longer meet the provisions for legal entry into or legal residence to remain in” the UK.
According to the pact, the UK will “submit all evidence concerning the identity, nationality and citizenship of the person to facilitate verification of his nationality”.
The pact also says both India and the UK will “work together constructively on returns arrangements that will contribute to the development of the overall migration partnership”.
The MoU also states that both New Delhi and London will “promote the voluntary return for nationals of the other Participant who are subject to a return decision”.
It adds, “If voluntary return is refused by the migrant, forced repatriation on a case-by-case basis will be resorted to” by the British government “in accordance with the applicable law after the verification of the national identity of those nationals”.