Thursday 08 Dec 2022

Overstaying foreigners have exploited flaws in system


The police have suddenly turned the heat on Bangladeshis staying illegally in Goa. In the past few days, around 25 Bangladeshis were arrested in various parts of the State, raising several questions about nationals overstaying in Goa, the crackdown on Bangladeshis and how the system works.

Goa has been home to nationals from several countries like Bangladesh, Uganda, Tanzania, Russia and Nigeria. Bangladeshis have found a way to beat the system by attaining Indian documents like Aadhar cards and ration cards to fake residency. On the other hand, Nigerians and Russians have managed to ward off deportation in different dubious ways.

The issue's crux is using fake Aadhar cards and other documents. Ironically, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had washed his hands off, stating that a private agency is handling the issuance of Aadhar cards and that government has no control over it. This is unacceptable because the Aadhar card is a unique identification card based on which government recognises its citizens. The suspected Bangladeshis who are detained have claimed to be citizens from States like Haryana, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata. How did that happen?

The government has to address the source of the issue because here is a case of a systemic failure where forgery and illegality have been committed on a government-recognised identity card. There has to be a thorough probe, and every effort should be made to track those involved in this fake Aadhar card racket. Countries have strict laws on illegal immigration, including jail terms and a ban on revisiting. Why not tighter rules in India?

While the government is focussing on deporting foreign nationals, it is just going through the motions knowing well that it has not deterred individuals from taking this illegal route. Furthermore, deportation has been cumbersome, requiring engagement with the countries in question. The citizenship of the illegal immigrant will have to be verified and proven, and only then can the deportation process start. The deportation figures may be impressive, with 106 sent back since 2019, but sadly that hasn't stopped the cycle. Bangladeshis overstaying in Goa have only increased 100 per cent in the past year.

Incidentally, Sawant has also called for stricter tenant verification on leased or rented premises. The question is whether tenant verification can help resolve this issue of foreign nationals overstaying, especially when residency is forged. Nonetheless, there has to be a stringent protocol for enumeration of those in rented premises, whether migrants or foreign nationals and the police need to play an active role.

The count of illegal immigrants is rising, and given the detention centre for foreigners in a pathetic condition and unable to hold more, those booked now have been put under "house arrest", giving them a breather and time to manoeuvre. This is the sorry side of the deportation story.

It's time the Goa government takes up the issue with the Centre and addresses genuine concerns in the hope that this illegality is plugged at some point.

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