Chandigarh: Every year nearly 20,000 Punjabi youths try to illegally migrate to European Union (EU) countries in pursuit of greener pastures, said a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report.
A majority of illegal migrants go to Britain, the report released here Thursday said.
It said many of them either land up in jails of those countries, commit suicide while on their way or lose lakhs of rupees to unscrupulous travel agents.
"Out of the 340, 276 and 196 cases of immigration-offence related records examined at the Indira Gandhi International airport at Delhi respectively for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007, an average of 47 percent or almost one-half of the cases are related to destination countries in Europe," said K.C. Saha, former consultant with UNODC and the principal author of the report.
He added: "The number of Punjabi youths going through irregular migration to Europe, every year is around 20,000. However, I have no exact figures for Haryana but this state is fast emerging as a state for irregular migration."
UNODC commissioned two research studies on the smuggling of migrants from Punjab and Haryana and from Tamil Nadu into Europe, and in particular to Britain.
This report was christened, `Smuggling of migrants from India into Europe and in particular to the UK: a study of Punjab and Haryana`.
Talking about the motivation that prompts youths to adhere to this illegal path, Saha said: "Legal migration options for unskilled workers are limited hence they resort to illegal migration. The phenomenon of irregular migration is not at all a stigma amongst the families of the migrants, provided it is successful. In fact, it is seen as a status symbol."
The report also suggests ways to tackle this problem.
"Regulations of agents and strict legislation against them is needed as they lure people into irregular migration. These agents are able to carry on their business without any hindrance from the local law enforcement authorities and civil society as they operate clandestinely," stated Saha.
"Conviction rate is also very poor in these cases as police normally have no proof because the victims approach police very late," he pointed out.
The report also highlighted the fact that irregular migration has not only spread to new areas in Punjab but also to the neighbouring states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
"This report mentions the reasons behind illegal migration and it will certainly help us tackle the problem of irregular migration. The state government is also working in this direction for a long time," said Punjab Chief Secretary Subodh Agarwal, who released this report.
The regional UNODC office for South Asia is based in New Delhi and it works in six countries: India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Christina Albertin, regional representative of UNODC, told reporters, "We are very concerned about irregular migration especially from Punjab and Tamil Nadu. Therefore we commissioned these reports, I hope that now governments can formulate strict laws to curb this practice."