Lankans using Chennai for illegal migration to Europe – UN report
NEW DELHI, February 9: Sri Lankan Tamils from LTTE-dominated areas are increasingly using the Chennai international airport as a transit point for illegal migration to Europe in general, and Britain in particular. This poses a major security concern, says a UN study released in the Tamil Nadu capital today.
The study, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on "Smuggling of Migrants from Tamil Nadu to Europe and in particular to UK," says Chennai has become the hub of "irregular migration."
The study found out that some of the illegal migrants are residents of LTTE-dominated areas of Sri Lanka. "Under such circumstances, security issues acquire a different dimension for India as the transit country and the destination countries in Europe as well," UNODC said.
The report, released by Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary KS Sripathi, strongly favours a separate study on irregular migration of Sri Lankans of Tamil origin.
Considering the close ethnic relationship between Sri Lankan Tamils and those from Tamil Nadu, the report said it will be appropriate to study irregular migration from Tamil Nadu alongside that from Sri Lanka.
For the UNODC report, 169 cases of immigration offence-related records from July 2006 to June 2007 were examined.
All these cases were registered with the police station at the international airport in Chennai, which handles arrival and departure of about 2.8 million passengers a year.
About 23 per cent of the cases examined relate to irregular migration of Sri Lankan nationals. Due to strict emigration checks for Sri Lankans of Tamil origin in the island nation, many of them prefer to come to Chennai and try to migrate illegally to destination countries in Europe, the study said.
The study is based on law enforcement authority records, discussions with officials and public representatives. It also revealed that out of the total of 169 cases, about 40 per cent cases of irregular migration, were from Tamil Nadu.
The study further found that illegal immigrants from Tamil Nadu’s neighbouring states Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, as well as some north Indian states also use Chennai for travelling to other countries.
During field visits by those who made the study, cases of irregular migration to the UK were noted from almost every village in Namakkal district and from certain pockets in Thanjavur district, both in Tamil Nadu. Among all destinations in Europe, UK was the most preferred destination for these illegal migrants.
Some seized forged documents revealed that they were of exceptionally high quality and that detection would only be possible by specially trained professionals.
The study observed that some foreign nationals from Iran, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan also tried to use Chennai to emigrate illegally to countries in Europe.
The UNODC found that migrants’ preferred destination countries in Europe are Austria, Greece, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Poland, France and the Netherlands.
Invariably, such foreign nationals choose to arrive at one airport in India but use Chennai to depart, thinking that they will not be questioned by immigration authorities since they have genuine arrival documents.
The study said field visits had revealed an overall trend of rising irregular migration and a proliferation of a large number of sub-agents in rural areas, who bring potential migrants in contact with representatives of agents.
The main agents are mostly based in Chennai, generally operating under the guise of travel or recruitment agencies.
It also found that agents adopt various methods to organise irregular migration, including forging of documents, use of forged Indian or foreign passports, photo and or jacket substitution in Indian and foreign passports, re-stitched passports, forged foreign visas, use of Malaysian passports, whose holders require no visas to visit the UK, and exchange of boarding cards in security areas.
The UNODC study said most ‘irregular migrants’ who had gone to UK had paid between US$12,000 and US$ 15,000.