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‘20,000 Punjabis attempt to migrate illegally every year’
Trend catching up in Haryana, HP and J&K too
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service 

Chandigarh, March 11 
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says that around 20,000 persons from Punjab attempt illegal migration every year, 84 per cent of whom are uneducated and opt for going abroad by selling off part of their land. 

The report states that the trend is now catching up in Haryana also with the districts of Ambala, Kurukshetra and Kaithal emerging as the “new leaders” in this field. It states such migrations are on the rise in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir too.

As far as Punjab is concerned, the Doaba region, comprising Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur, continues to witness maximum migration even as this trend is spreading to the districts of Moga, Sangrur and Ferozepur. It states that at least 25,000 families in Punjab have been duped of Rs 1,250 crore by travel agents till now.

The report, which was released by Punjab Chief Secretary SC Aggarwal and presented by UNODC consultant KC Saha here today, reveals that while most of the illegal migrants earlier belonged to the jat and lobana castes, now other castes were also taking to such migration. As much as 55 per cent of these migrants are in the age group of 21 to 30 even as a substantial number are in the 31 to 40 years group. 

Saha claimed that far from being a stigma, illegal migration leads to an increase in social status in villages where society is increasingly being divided into those who have a family member abroad and those who do not. 

The UNODC findings make it clear that destination countries have increased to 57 over the years. However, the United Kingdom remains a favourite for most migrants due to ease of language and support base and that 55 per cent of all such migrants choose this country. The routes taken by migrants have also increased with the traditional Moscow-Ukraine route being joined by the North Africa and Central Asia routes.

Listing true stories, the report mentions that illegal migrants remain housed in inhuman conditions for months together under the care of security guards in safe houses in Africa and spend as much as 30 to 40 days on ships before they reach a safe country. It says agents have also become very professional with the main agents operating from Delhi even as sub-agents and those who can be “sacrificed” responsible for dealing directly with “clients”.

The study brought out the fact that travel agents indulging in illegal migration were rarely convicted. This, it said, was because individuals were only interested in getting their money back, which usually resulted in a compromise. 



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