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5,000 Punjabi youths suffer Greek tragedy
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 10
Looking for greener pastures, between 3,000 and 5,000 young Punjabis have ended up as a “community of asylum seekers” on the Crete island of Greece. They have been stuck for the past about five years, despite having made several attempts to sneak into one or the other European country as asylum seekers.

Having been allured with destination England, these youngsters were allegedly taken to this Greek island by unscrupulous travel agents through the often-used route via Moscow, Poland and Italy. On the Crete island they are doing petty jobs like selling mineral water or flowers with the hope that they would make it to some other European country one day.

Their dreams, however, might never be realised owing to the integrated fingerprint identification process now in use by the immigration authorities of almost all European countries. Most of the youth who made efforts to seek “asylum” in countries like England, Italy or France were sent back to the country where they had sought asylum first (in this case, Crete) according to the international laws and the Dublin convention.

Under these laws, it is mandatory for an asylum seeker to remain in the first safe country where he has landed and sought asylum.

“Almost all of the Punjabi youth have made attempts to migrate to other European countries by changing their identity, but their cases were turned down after the detection of the fraud by the integrated fingerprint identification process, effectively used nowadays by European countries. A handful have, however, managed to go to France, where most of them are selling water or flowers under the Eiffel Tower. You can see a number of them sleeping under the tower,” says Mr Harjap Singh Bhangal, a solicitor in the UK Supreme Court and an expert in asylum cases.

Mr Bhangal, who is running a Southall-based immigration consultancy, says cases of Punjabis in Crete have not only been rejected by the UK-based seven asylum-seeker detention centres but also by countries like Holland and Belgium and they have been redirected to Crete, which is smaller than Sri Lanka in size. Claiming that he has handled cases of such youths, Mr Bhangal says after rejection, such youth become disgruntled as they can neither return to India nor go to any other country. “They tell their tales of agony, but hardly anything can be done for them,” he adds.

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