An investigation conducted by The Telegraph has found that young Indians are paying travel agents up to £10,000 for illegal entry into the UK via small boats across the Channel. Families are selling their land and property to collect the required funds to pay the agents for visa entry, usually through Serbia or Greece, before making their way to northern France for the small boat crossings that cost £3,500 each time.
The individuals are seeking to work in low-paid, black market jobs in the UK’s hospitality industry, gig economy, food delivery driving or agriculture. Advertisements on TikTok are promoting Serbia as a route into the UK, despite the country having closed a loophole earlier this year that permitted Indians 30-day visa-free travel within the EU.
The adverts portray many young Indian men, believed to be between 18 and 35 years of age, who undertake the onward journey organised by trafficking gangs from Serbia to Austria. The gangs welcome them to the “dark life.”
According to a report by The Telegraph, Home Office figures revealed that Indians were the second-largest group crossing the English Channel, just behind Afghans. The data indicated that 675 Indians arrived in small boats in the first three months of this year, representing almost 20% of the total 3,793 people crossing during the period, and the same number of Indians that arrived during the entire previous year.
According to Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director of the North American Punjabi Association (Napa), a non-profit organisation that works on illegal migration issues, young men are leaving India for the UK due to rising unemployment rates and the promise of a better life.
In order to apply for a legal skilled worker visa for the UK, an applicant must have a sponsored job with a salary of at least £26,200 per year. Chahal stated that families are selling their land or other properties to send their children abroad because they are unable to find jobs in India. Many of these immigrants are taking land routes through Serbia and Greece to enter Europe and then finally into the UK through the English Channel.
Some of these individuals are also reportedly smuggling drugs like heroin and brown sugar from India into the UK. Chahal also claims that illegal Indian immigrants can be found primarily in Gurdwaras, restaurants, and gas stations. Entry into Gurdwaras is free and individuals can receive free food and shelter regardless of their legal status.
The Telegraph has reported that in a major crackdown by the Home Office, 60 suspected illegal immigrants working for gig economy firms including Deliveroo, JustEat and UberEats were arrested last month. Among those arrested were Indians. Immigration officers and police focused on areas in London and the South East, where they stopped delivery drivers to verify their identities.
This move is part of the Home Office’s initiative to counter the accusations by some European leaders that Britain’s relaxed approach to illegal working is luring economic migrants to the country.
The Telegraph has conducted an interview with two Indian friends, Lovepreet Singh, 25, and Hardeep Singh, 17, who crossed Europe from Serbia to Dunkirk in just three days. The two migrants are now waiting in Dunkirk for a trafficker to help them cross the Channel to reach England.
Lovepreet Singh, who cannot swim, expressed fear about crossing the Channel on a boat but explained that they had no other options. He added that they had paid £16,000 to reach this point and were willing to pay £2,200 for the boat crossing, as they did not want to stay in the “freezing cold camp.” The migrants do not speak French and hope to live and work in England.
The Telegraph has revealed that agents are providing to arrange marriages for potential illegal immigrants from India, charging a fee of £25,000. According to the report, Punjab and Gujarat, India are the central regions involved in this trade where British women of Indian descent are signing marriage documents in exchange for payment to help young Indian men gain illegal entry into the UK.
After the immigrants settle down, they live separately and initiate divorce procedures. The report also states that some women are even involved in multiple fake marriages for financial gain.
A man from Gujarat who was bound for the UK was arrested at Mumbai airport last month with a fake passport that bore the name of a person from a different religion. According to police sources, the man’s family paid £15,000 to an agent for an arranged marriage with an Indian-born British woman, which would allow him to stay in the UK. The arrest highlights the difficulties of curbing illegal immigration into the UK due to corruption and growing unemployment in India, according to Mr. Chahal.