Kabootarbaazi: The immigration racket

Raj Kumar is a kabootarbaaz, literally a pigeon handler but now the slang word in northern India for those who organise illegal immigration. People like Kumar make money from kabootars — those desperate to get to promised lands where jobs and social security are available. Kumar, who operates out of a South Delhi colony,  doesn’t forge documents; he ensures a visa to a foreign country where the potential immigrant must then disappear and make his own way. Here’s what this business is all about, in 45-year-old Kumar’s own words:

 
You may call me a trafficker, illegal immigrant pusher or kabootarbaaz, but I take pride in my work. Most of us consider our profession as an instrument to level the playing field and bring an end to economic disparity. My clients are largely from rural Punjab or Gujarat, lured by the glamour of a western lifestyle. They approach us by word of mouth. We never make or help make forged documents. Our services are procuring a valid visa and ensuring that the client reaches the destination, often with the help of a ‘carrier’. After that, how the banda (colloquial for person, here client) dissolves into the foreign country is not our headache. For European countries, barring the UK, we charge around ₹5 lakh. For the UK, Canada and the US, the fee is double. The payment is made part in India and rest after the client reaches ‘home’. I specialize in Schengen countries. Most of our clients want to go to Germany as their family circle is there. We have mapped lenient or ‘pliable’ embassies. When we find German embassy ‘uncooperative’ in a case, we get the Schengen visa through countries like Malta (the most preferred one), Czech Republic, Spain, Slovenia, etc. From there, the banda travels by road or train to reach Germany. There are two tricky parts in this game. Not papers, but visa and the immigration. Documents like passport, IT return and PAN card must always be genuine. Normally, embassies suspect young people leaving India for Europe. So, we need a carrier, with respectable track record, to vouch for the client as an assistant or an employee of the traveller (carrier). The carrier, depending upon our client could be a failed sportsman, B-grade musician, retired Army officer or bureaucrat who has fallen on bad times. I have personally used all these categories of carriers. For a group, since the stakes are high, we first visit the destination country ourselves and go through their annual event calendar. We mark events like a trade fair, local cricket tournament or an Indian classic music programme. Now, depending upon the pack, we decide how to plan the ‘departure’. If our pack is an athletic looking young lot, we mark local sports events. Else, a business expo or a local music event. The next target is to search for the right carrier to lead the troupe or team. Here is how it works: I place an ad in newspapers looking for retired officers who are well travelled, and willing to work as partners in a new venture. I then screen the unscrupulous or desperate ones, luring them with a free return ticket to a foreign country, a brief stay and $500. We then disguise our clients as junior musicians, a sports team, or representatives of an exporters group looking for printing tech, and apply for the visa. The invites are mostly genuine and the carrier has his/her career record to back the ‘team’. Very few European embassies seek personal interviews. Besides, the language barrier works to our advantage. Only in a rare case is an application rejected.
WHO MAKES WHAT
Agent: ₹5-10 Lakh Carrier: $500-1000 plus return ticket and boarding expenses Immigration Officials: ₹25-50,000 Embassy Officials: Unspecified

The next barrier is the immigration desk. There are many agents who try to bypass this barrier to save loose change. This is foolish. Immigration officials, often drawn from security services, can easily tell a genuine traveler from a kabootar. Their fee, called cutsey (probably derived from courtesy), barely crosses ₹50,000. If you ever come across a case where illegal immigrants or fraudulent travelers were caught at airport, you can be sure that the agent hadn’t paid the immigration desk. Since immigration desk works under CCTV cameras, last-minute deals are impossible or very expensive. What happens when the banda reaches destination? I told you this is not our concern. But to your information, mostly they contact their community, hide their passports and find local jobs. These jobs could be night shifts at various 24X7 shops, or in remote areas. When the support is good, mostly in UK or US, the banda hires a lawyer and applies for asylum and, later, citizenship. Some stay there in jobs to later apply for social security number with the help of rights groups. In that case, Canada is the most benevolent. In other places, the banda can get away by either bribing the cops or by destroying their passports and preferring a jail term while simultaneously applying for social security benefits with the help of rights groups. The real Ram Rajya for an illegal immigrant is not in India, Sirji. It is in Europe. Try it.
 
With editorial assistance from LokMarg; name of travel changed to maintain anonymity]]>

Britain at crossroads, says Corbyn about Brexit

Britain will have to consider its global role after deciding to leave the European Union, but it wants close ties with Europe, the main UK parliamentary opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said in Geneva on Friday. “Britain is at a crossroads,” he said at the UN in Geneva. “The decision by British people to leave the EU in last year’s referendum means there has to be a lot of hard thinking about our role in the world,” Xinhua reported. Corbyn, who leads the Labor Party, spoke to journalists at the United Nations in Geneva after making a speech on human rights and international cooperation and on a day the EU said it and Britain had moved closer in agreeing terms of their divorce. He said some people want to use Brexit, its decision to leave the EU, “to turn Britain in on itself rejecting the outside world and turn everyone into a feared competitor”. “Others want to use Brexit to put rocket boosters under our current economic system’s insecurities and inequalities. Turning Britain into a deregulated corporate tax haven, low wages, with limited rights, cut-price public services, in a wholly destructive race to the bottom.” But Corbyn said his party wants “to see a close and cooperative relationship with our European neighbours, outside the European Union, based on solidarity as well as mutual benefit and fair trade, along with a wider proactive internationalism across the globe”. He said he will fight for non-tariff trade with the EU, but he did not answer a question on whether Britain would have another referendum if that cannot be achieved. In his speech Corbyn warned that the “dominant global economic system is broken” and that it has produced a world where “a wealthy few control 90 per cent of global resources, of growing insecurity and grotesque levels of inequality within and between nations”. Corbyn attacked the governing Conservative Party of Prime Minister Theresa May saying, “Our government has played a central role in enabling the corruption that undermines democracy, and violates human rights.” “In Africa alone $35 billion is lost each year to tax dodging and 50 billion dollars to illicit financial flows, vastly exceeding the $30 billion that enters the continent of Africa as aid,” said the British opposition leader. He spoke of two exposes on tax evasion known as the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers, he said these showed that the powerful and super-rich in the “cannot regulate themselves. Corbyn added that the United Nations has a “pivotal role to play to advance a new consensus, and common ground based on solidarity, respect for human rights, international regulation and cooperation”.

(IANS) // ]]>

Plot to assassinate Theresa May foiled

 A 20-year-old man accused of a plot to bomb Downing Street’s security gates and then kill British Prime Minister Theresa May was on Wednesday remanded in custody after he appeared at a court here. Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman from north London was charged with preparing acts of terrorism and was remanded in custody during a hearing at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the BBC reported. He appeared alongside 21-year-old Mohammed Aqib Imran, who was accused of trying to join the Islamic State (IS) and preparing acts of terror. Rahman was also charged with assisting Imran in terror planning. Both men will appear at London’s Old Bailey on December 20. They were arrested in raids by the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command in London and Birmingham on November 28. Police believe their plan was to detonate some sort of improvised explosive device (IED) at Downing Street and attack and kill the Prime Minister in the ensuing chaos, Sky News reported. During the hearing, Rahman gave his nationality as Bangladeshi-British while Imran from Birmingham gave his as Pakistani-British. The plot was revealed to the British Cabinet on Tuesday by Andrew Parker, the head of the security service MI5, who also told the ministers that security services had foiled nine terrorist attacks in Britain in the past year. Addressing the Cabinet, Parker reportedly said the IS had been defeated in Syria and Iraq but was continuing to orchestrate attacks on Britain. After the meeting, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister led thanks to the tireless work of staff at MI5 to combat the unprecedented terrorist threat.” “Cabinet ministers heard that while IS suffered major defeats in Iraq and Syria, this did not mean the threat is over. Rather it is spreading to new areas, including trying to encourage attacks in the UK and elsewhere via propaganda on social media,” the spokesman added. Downing Street is protected by armed police officers and separated from the public by fortified gates. Security measures were introduced in the 1970s but were increased in the 1980s as the threat from Irish republican groups grew.

(IANS) // ]]>