The increasing number of Indian migrants crossing English Channel illegally

In the first three months of this year, the number of Indians travelling across the English Channel on small boats increased dramatically, surpassing Afghans to become the second-largest cohort, according to the most recent UK home office statistics. It has also come to light that the bulk of Indians who entered the UK illegally on boats were from Punjab and were presumably drawn there by work prospects.

The new data reveals that 3,793 people entered by small boats between January 1 and March 31, 2023, with Afghans (909, 24%) and Indians (675, 18%) being the two most common nationalities.

The number of Indians almost exactly matches the overall number of immigrants from 2022, when 683 Indian nationals illegally crossed the English Channel from France on tiny boats, ranking as the tenth-largest nationality at the time.

According to Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director of NAPA (North American Punjabi Association), who assists illegal Indian migrants worldwide, “the majority of Indian migrants arriving in Britain on small boats come from Punjab, Delhi, and Gujarat, with the majority being Punjabi. The men range in age from 18 to 35. The main justification is jobs, and they believe the UK’s future is promising. Since employment visas for the UK are difficult to obtain, they are unable to enter lawfully,” he told TOI from California.

He claimed that the normal procedure involved obtaining a legitimate tourist visa for France, Greece, or Serbia and using a dinghy to illegally cross the English Channel from Calais. “Getting a visa for Greece or Serbia is not extremely difficult. They pay the agents a lot of money, and the agents set up a visa for them,” he claimed. According to him, the agents have offices in Chandigarh, Jalandhar, and Delhi and subcontract to unlicensed sub-agents in Punjabi villages and cities.

Once in the UK, they submit an asylum request. 3,248 Indian nationals applied for asylum in Britain in 2022, however just 4% of those applications were granted at the initial decision stage. However, those who were refused might still appeal. Indians are currently the ninth most common nationality to request asylum.

They work in restaurants or farmland illegally while their asylum request is being processed. They also might work with a Punjabi businessman or wash dishes in restaurants if they don’t speak English, he continued. In a recent week-long crackdown on unlawful employment by delivery drivers from large companies, 60 people were detained around London and the south, including Indian nationals. Teams from the home office detained moped drivers from Brazil, India, and Algeria for violations like holding an undocumented job and having fraudulent identification.