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200 Indians caught in EU human smuggling racket

200 Indian citizens arrested in Belgium, seeking to enter Britain illegally

18 October 2008. Fifteen members of an international human trafficking gang were today arrested in Belgium where they had brought nearly 200 Indian citizens seeking to enter Britain illegally.

Belgium has often figured in investigations as one of the places where illegal immigrants are brought before they are dispersed illegally in various countries in the European Union.

The destination of Indians involved in such illegal immigration is usually Britain, which has a large population of Indian and south Asian origin.

The arrests were made following raids by the Belgian authorities on suspected safe-houses. Nearly 50 Indians were discovered hiding in a gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib  in a suburb of Vilvorde, media reports said. Indian gathered to celebrate 300 years of Khalsa Panth on 19th October 2008.

“This morning we executed a series of search warrants to intercept all the suspects. This operation proved this is happening on a large scale, because we found more than 200 illegal Indians,” Tim De Wolf, an assistant prosecutor dealing with the case, was quoted as saying by the media.

The raids were conducted following a year-long investigation by EU authorities into one of the most notorious routes of international illegal immigration with roots in Punjab. The arrests came within hours after British immigration minister Phil Woolas said the number of migrants allowed into the UK under the points system may have to be reduced because of the economic crisis.

Woolas told The Times that immigration became an “extremely thorny” subject if people were losing their jobs. “It’s been too easy to get into this country in the past and it’s going to get harder,” he said.

The BBC recently broadcast an under undercover investigation that exposed a London-based criminal network that used fake passports, identity documents and human carriers to bring in illegal migrants, mostly from Punjab, into Britain.

Another recent investigation that set off alarm bells was a documentary titled ‘Shores Far Away’ by prominent Indian film-maker Savyasaachi Jain, who documented the perils and pitfalls of Indians from Punjab who undertake the hazardous illegal journey to Europe with the help of people smugglers.

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