New Delhi: A British lawmaker was Monday denied entry into India on arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the national capital as her visa was found to be “invalid”, ThePrint has learnt.
Labour Party MP Debbie Abrahams was unable to clear customs in Delhi and will now be deported, confirmed an official at the Bureau of Immigration, who did not wish to be named.
Abrahams chairs a UK parliamentary group focused on Kashmir, and has been a critic of the Narendra Modi government’s move to scrap Article 370.
Speaking to news agency Associated Press, Abrahams said the immigration officials didn’t cite any reason for denying her entry and revoking her visa, which was valid until October 2020.
However, sources in the immigration department told ThePrint that Abrahams came to India with an e-visa that had been cancelled by authorities earlier and hence wasn’t valid.
“The visa she came on was a cancelled visa,” the official said. “She did have a visa that was valid till October 2020, but it was cancelled over some ground and she was also informed about the same, well in advance, via an email.”
The official said she was also conveyed that she should contact the Indian embassy in the UK if she wanted the visa again.
“A detailed mail was sent to her and she was also told that she should contact the embassy for a fresh visa but she chose to fly with the cancelled visa,” said the official.
Abrahams, along with her aide Harpreet Upal, arrived at the IGI Airport on an Emirates flight from Dubai at 9 am. She was supposed to be in India for two days on a personal trip, said the AP report.
“I tried to establish why the visa had been revoked and if I could get a ‘visa on arrival’ but no one seemed to know,” AP quoted her as saying in a statement.
In a Twitter post later in the day, Abrahams said she would “continue to challenge my own Government & others while injustice & abuse is unchecked”.
“In response to some of the comments I was planning to visit Indian family in Dehli accompanied by my Indian aide. I became a politician to promote social justice & human rights FOR ALL. I will continue to challenge my own Government & others while injustice & abuse is unchecked,” she posted.
Notice sent to Emirates
The Bureau of Immigration has now sent a notice to Emirates to ascertain how Debbie Abrahams was allowed to board the flight with an invalid visa, said the official quoted above.
“The airlines did not check her visa before she boarded and that is a violation too. Also, the details that her visa has been cancelled should have been with the airlines as it is also updated in their system, but they were not careful enough to check,” said the official.
“We have now sent them a notice seeking an explanation for the same,” added the official.
The official also said when the staff at the airport asked her to show them a copy of her visa, she showed them the visa that was cancelled.
“She then requested us to give her an on-arrival visa, which we refused. Travelling without a valid visa is an offence. It is a violation of visa rules. Hence, she will now be sent back,” the source said.
Criticism of Kashmir move
Since the Modi government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on 4 August 2019 and clamped down on communications, Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams has organised programmes in the UK and started a petition to raise awareness about the issue.
In her petition addressed to the British PM, she called on the UK government and the international community to use “all diplomatic and economic measures at their disposal to influence the Indian and Pakistan government to ensure that democracy is respected and that the Kashmiri people are at the heart of any constitutional reform of the region”.
On a page titled “Oldham stands in solidarity with Kashmir” on her website, Abrahams wrote about her concerns about detentions of political leaders and even children in Kashmir, and mass mobilisation of troops in the region.
“We heard first hand from local people who are understandably distraught at not having been able to contact their relatives as a result of India’s media and communications blackout. They are really concerned about violence escalating as tens of thousands of Indian troops have been sent to the region, and hundreds of politicians are either under house arrest or have been detained,” she wrote.
“There are also worrying reports that children as young as 11 years old are being detained.”
She also asked the Government of India to ensure that the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir are respected.
Abrahams also wrote to India’s High Commissioner to the UK, saying the government action “betrays the trust of the people” of Kashmir. She was elected chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir in 2018.