How Gujaratis become sitting ducks in hands of unscrupulous agents

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How Gujaratis become sitting ducks in hands of unscrupulous agents

| Updated: March 2, 2024 21:19

It wasn’t too long ago that the Gujarat police identified 15 agents involved in illegally transporting 66 people from Gujarat to the US. The truth came to light after a Nicaragua-bound plane was made to return from France owing to suspected human trafficking.

The flight reportedly carried 303 passengers. A court that convened at the Vatry airport, close to Paris, issued an order to release the passengers and enable the aircraft to depart for Mumbai. However, only 276 of them—mostly from Punjab and Gujarat—arrived in Mumbai. At the time of creating this piece, the Gujarat police is still looking into that matter.

Gujaratis have always had the desire to relocate to the United States or Canada, a trend in the 1960s.

The Vibes of India has done detailed reporting on how gullible Gujarati families have been taking dangerous routes, walking across the border or travelling by sea to reach their destination, invariably putting their reputation and lives at risk.

Cases such as the Dingucha village tragedy and the Mehsana family’s drowning in the St. Lawrence River last April are too fresh to warrant retelling. Then, there was the curious case of Bharat Rabari who left Gujarat for the United States via the Caribbean, but has been missing since February last year.

Blinded by the glamour of the US, many Gujarati families are prepared to shell out exorbitant amounts, even to the tune of Rs 60-80 lakh, to immigration agents.

According to statistics provided by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), 96,917 Indians attempted to enter the US illegally last year. Of them, at least 41,770 attempted to enter the US via the Mexican land border.

Naturally, Indians, Gujaratis in particular, are soft targets in the hands of these human traffickers who have been experimenting with various strategies to transport their clients to America ever since French police grounded that chartered jet carrying undocumented migrants bound for Nicaragua.

The latest episode involves migrants taking a plane from Vietnam to Nicaragua and back to the US. Recently, several of these prospective migrants from Gandhinagar travelled to Vietnam in order to take a chartered flight to Nicaragua.

Because Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, could not provide any facilities, some of them were compelled to return to India, and others of them were robbed, according to a report by a national daily.

A tourist from Gandhinagar realised that his agent had not reserved accommodations for him and his family when he arrived at the hotel. In less than a day, they had no choice but to return to India. The daily, citing sources close to the Gujarat police, revealed that such unscrupulous agents purchase tickets in bulk.

A crackdown on illegal emigration started after a family of four, including two children from a Gandhinagar village, died, unable to cope with extremely cold weather while attempting to walk across the Canada-US border in January 2022.

Going by the recurring spate of episodes, a mere crackdown doesn’t seem to be sufficient.

Around this time last year, the Gujarat government had been mulling over introducing a law to regulate travel agents to curb illegal and fraudulent activities of organised human smuggling in the state on the lines of ‘The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012’.

Unless rules are tightened for travel agents and in quick time, many Gujarati families will continue to fall prey to nefarious designs.

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