The Indian jugaad buddhi is best described as the never-say-die attitude carried to extremes. And stretching it further comes the “improvisation” to citizenship that illegal travel agents in Gujarat have resorted to, in face of a tightening of rules ever since the Dingucha tragedy.
Investigators trailing the illegal immigration nexus have unearthed the Portuguese connection that aspiring US immigrants in Gujarat have. “Portugal is a Schengen country and allows for easier visa to any of the 27 Schengen countries. That makes it a visa free travel within the allied nations. Once in any of these countries, the immigrant can easily travel to the US,” shared an investigating officer.
But why Porutgal? “The answer is simple,” he explains, adding “Indians born in former Portuguese colonies Daman and Diu can claim citizenship by proving Portuguese descent. Fake papers and attestations are undertaken to support the claim.”
Ever since the bodies of Jagdish Patel and his family were found frozen a few metres away from the US border last January, police teams from Delhi and Gujarat have cracked the whip on the racketeers. In wake of the raids, two gangs were stumbled upon: one in the Ranip area in Ahmedabad and the other based out of Umreth in Anand. These two rely heavily on the Portuguese connection route.
In November 2022, Nilesh Prajapati, a resident of Valsad was caught at the Ahmedabad airport with a Portuguese passport. He travelled to Armenia and then to Serbia, from where he obtained a Portuguese passport in 2018. “Close on heels of this case, we stumbled upon the large number of fake Portuguese identities. Places which used to be Dutch colonies have a special registry of birth and anyone born there is still allowed the right to Portuguese nationality,” shared an officer.
Confirming the doubts after Prajapati’s arrest came another arrest. One Lakhanshi Keshwala, a native of Beran village in Porbandar was detained for interrogation at Ahmedabad airport on arrival from the UK. “On interrogation, he owned up that his passport was made on a fake identity, as Mahendra Lakmane from the UK. His revelations guided the probe to an agent based in Senegal,” shared the officer, adding that the racket is run on an international scale.
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