Wednesday, January 15, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Aid for illegal Sikh migrants
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 14
To mitigate the hardship faced by illegal Sikh migrants, the Vajpayee government has directed Indian missions abroad to issue travel documents after satisfying themselves that the applicants are Indian nationals.

This is particularly so in the case of illegal migrants entering Canada with or without passports, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha has observed in a communication to National Commission for Minorities Vice-Chairman Tarlochan Singh.

Taking cognisance of the difficulties faced by a large number of Sikhs who have sought asylum abroad, particularly in the USA and Canada, Mr Sinha said in his letter of January 2, “We attach the highest priority to the welfare of our nationals and our embassies have standing instructions to provide them all possible assistance under the rules.”

Mr Sinha said in case of those who have proceeded abroad and applied for political asylum, it is for the local government to decide whether their stay abroad is legal or illegal. Indian missions do not provide such persons consular services except to enable them to visit their immediate relatives in emergency on a short-validity passport restricted to travel to India and back for a single journey.

In cases where individuals are not granted refugee status, the Indian Mission provides emergency certificates for travel back to India, subject to verification of antecedents by the State government.

“We have been seeking the cooperation of all State governments concerned to respond expeditiously to communications from our missions and posts overseas. Our endeavour has always been to assist our nationals by providing them the necessary documents once their status as Indians is confirmed,” Mr Sinha said.

He drew pointed attention to constraints in rendering assistance to illegal migrants because of their failure to establish proper proof of their antecedents. Cases of such persons are forwarded to the State government concerned for verification. In the meantime, the applicant is asked to get a notarised affidavit from his parents in India and a certificate from the district police concerned where he is living, confirming his Indian nationality and absence of adverse record.

Further, Mr Sinha said, the applicant has also to give a statement that he has not renounced his Indian nationality or obtained any other travel documents. In cases of emergency, a one-year validity passport is issued to such individuals after receiving clearance from the State government, he added.

Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertiliser S.S. Dhindsa, Mr Tarlochan Singh and several others have been taking up the cause of the large number of Sikhs in Europe, the USA and Canada after illegal migration.

In his letter to Mr Sinha dated October 3, Mr Tarlochan Singh said a scores of Punjabi youths had died in foreign lands and quite a good number put in jails. The problem in the USA and Canada was that a large number of Punjabi youth had registered themselves as refugees after Operation Bluestar.

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