India recently declined to sign up to a bilateral agreement with Britain to facilitate the return of its illegal immigrants, following a host of unresolved concerns that are still being negotiated.
Official sources in New Delhi said the pact that was to have been signed for the return of thousands of illegal Indian immigrants during prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to London last month for the Commonwealth leaders meet, “remains under discussion”.
They said the outstanding issues between the two sides primarily include Indian concerns that an “inordinately” large number of Indians could be deported by Britain without taking “humanitarian considerations” into account. Security issues too needed to be jointly resolved before India signed the agreement.
India considered some of the illegal migrants, especially Sikh and Kashmiri extremists and sympathisers demanding separate homelands in northern Punjab and Kashmir state, to be ‘hazardous’ and a security risk, and were loath to take them back.
According to the British authorities, who have raised the illegal migrants issue with India for several years, their numbers vary between 75,000 and 100,000, the largest for any single nationality in the UK.
Indian agencies, however, challenge this figure, claiming that the number of illegal migrants was no more than 2,000.
Earlier, in January India’s junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UK to facilitate the return of illegal Indian immigrants within 30 days of their detection by the British authorities.
According to the MoU the British authorities would identify the illegal Indian migrants, inform Delhi who, in turn would independently verify their antecedents and status within a month, streamlining the process for their return.
Thereafter, if the British claims were proved right, the Indian High Commission in London would be required to issue the illegal immigrants emergency travel certificate for the deportation to be executed.
According to official data some 5,000 illegal immigrant Indians returned home last year, of which around 500 were deported.
India’s foreign ministry spokesman was not available for comment.