New Delhi: The United States has deported nearly 50 per cent more Indians this year compared to the same period in 2018, ThePrint has learnt.
The Donald Trump administration has already deported around 550 Indians in the past six months — an average of three persons a day — for staying in America “illegally”. The total number of Indians deported in 2018 and 2017 were 790 and 570 respectively.
Sources in the MHA told ThePrint that another 350 Indians have been placed in US deportation centres, many of which have come under intense scrutiny for their ‘inhumane’ living conditions. Some of these facilities have also been likened to Nazi concentration camps.
“The numbers have nearly doubled since last year. Agents luring people with promises of a better life is a big menace today. Many migrants take difficult and dangerous routes without money, food or security,” said a source in the MHA.
A 6-year-old girl from India died last month after crossing the US-Mexico border.
Tightening of the visa regime under Trump has led to this significant increase in deportations of Indian immigrants in the past four years. According to a report by the Border Patrol Statistics, 8,997 people from India were apprehended at the Southwest border in 2018 — nearly triple the number in 2017, when 2,943 Indian migrants were held.
The US government also plans to introduce a new fast-track deportation procedure, reported BBC Tuesday, that will bypass immigration courts in order to make the process faster.
“Under the new rules, migrants who cannot prove that they have been in the US continuously for more than two years can be immediately deported. Until now, expedited deportations could only be applied to those detained near the border who had been in the US for less than two weeks,” the report said.
This new rule is expected to be implemented with immediate effect.
Most Indians from Punjab and Gujarat
Last month, a special flight was arranged from the US to India with ‘illegal’ migrants, ThePrint has learnt.
In the past six months, four such flights have been arranged to deport Indians from the US. “Each flight carried around 100-150 Indians,” a second MHA source said.
Last year, five such special flights were arranged. “Sometimes, a few deportees are sent on regular flights but if there are too many people then special flights are arranged,” the source added.
Among the 550 Indians deported this year, 80 per cent were in the age group of 20 and 45 years, with 75 per cent belonging to either Punjab or Gujarat. Also, there were no women deportees.
“Many of those deported had sold lands in Gujarat and Punjab to pay their agents. While a majority of them were held without valid documents, only 15 per cent of them had entered the US on student visas and overstayed,” said the second MHA source.
Change of route
The MHA source also explained how agents had earlier taken Indians through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to reach the US.
“With a stricter visa policy, the agents now take migrants via Quito in Ecuador. They first reach Turbo, a port city in Colombia and then head to the Panama mainland after a strenuous bus journey, followed by a trek through forests and a boat journey. They take the agents through the forests in Nicaragua, Honduras and finally Guatemala,” the source said.
“After reaching Guatemala, they reach Mexico in closed trucks before crossing over to the US,” he added.
Deportations from across the world
According to statistics accessed by ThePrint, a total of 9,068 Indians were deported from across the world in 2018. Until 30 June this year, the number had already reached 4,010. In 2017, this number was 9,212.
“Most countries have become strict with their visa rules and Indians are increasingly getting deported from across the world on a daily basis,” a third MHA source said.
To stop Indians from leaving the country, the government is also planning a crackdown on agents who facilitate these travels. “Cracking down on these agents is what is required and we are working on it,” a government functionary said, on the condition of anonymity.