New Delhi is dragging its feet to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with London over the return of illegal immigrants, despite Indian cabinet giving an approval to the proposal. UK minister of state for counter-terrorism Baroness Williams on Monday took up the issue with Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijiju, asking New Delhi to formalise the agreement, officials said.
The pact with the Britain and Northern Ireland was cleared by the Union Cabinet on April 11. It was to be signed during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to UK in April this year. However, the external affairs ministry headed by Sushma Swaraj raised objection with terms and conditions of the MoU. The officials at MEA and Indian agencies learnt to have conveyed that they were not consulted before finalising the agreement.
The Indian Express on May 3, 2017 was the first to report on India’s reservation on the clauses of the MoU. The pact, according to officials, would have helped in streamlining the procedure of return, in a specified time-frame, of nationals caught to be staying illegally in the other country. According to information shared by UK authorities with their Indian counterparts, there are nearly 40,000 illegal Indian immigrants in different parts of Europe. London conveyed that there is an urgent need to deport these people.
MoS (Home) Rijiju, however, assured Williams that New Delhi will give a fresh look into the terms and conditions of MoU and Indian agencies will be asked to come up with a deadline for verification of illegal migrants. Rijiju during his visit to London in January this year had signed a draft treaty which initially agreed to fix a deadline of 70 days for verifying the nationality of immigrants without any documents.
For those with valid documents, the deadline was agreed to 15 days, officials added. However, immigration officials contested these deadlines and claimed that they have come across several cases of deportation from UK, where the people are actually from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Sri Lanka. “They claim to be Indian in the hope that they will be treated well. But without any proper documents, it is very difficult to establish their country of origin,” an official explained.
During the dialogue between Williams and Rijiju on Monday, UK is believed to have raised concerns over the arrest of a Sikh from Scotland, Jagtar Singh Johal, by the Punjab police in connection with the conspiracy to targeted killings of leaders of the RSS and the Shiv Sena. Johal arrest in November last year had caused alarm and panic among the Sikh diaspora in the UK and the matter was taken by their Parliament. Over 10 consular access have been provided by New Delhi to the officials of British high commission, officials added.
India also raised extradition requests for diamantaire Nirav Modi, liquor baron Vijay Mallya and nine other that includes Rajesh Kapoor, Tiger Hanif, Atul Singh, Raj Kumar Patel, Jatinder Kumar Angurala, Asha Rani Angurala, Sanjeev Kumar Chawla, Shaik Sadiq and Ashok Malik. New Delhi is leart to have shared a list of nearly 60 fugitives who are suspected to be hiding in Britain. UK provided a list of 17 people whose custody it seeks under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty or against whom Letters Rogatory has been issued.