UK to clear slums with illegal Indians

Termed `beds in sheds` and `shanty towns`, the slum-like living conditions are rented out for extortionate rents by ruthless landlords in London.

London: Britain is setting up a taskforce to close and clear thousands of illegal extensions to houses in places such as Southall, where many illegal immigrants from India and elsewhere live in slum-like conditions at high rents.

Among the measures planned is "closer working with organisations such as the Indian High Commission to help those wanting to return home", official sources here said.

The first meeting to tackle the issue by taking action against criminal landlords and removing illegal immigrants was scheduled today between Housing minister Grant Shapps and Immigration minister Damian Green.

For many Indian citizens who brave hazardous journeys across continents and wily human traffickers with hopes of a better life, their `London dream` often turns into a veritable nightmare, and are reduced to living in slum-like conditions here.

The unhealthy, cramped conditions in which the illegal Indians live have often hit the headlines, with reports that many who destroyed their Indian passports to prevent deportation were trying to re-establishing their identity and obtain new travel documents from the Indian high commission to return home.

Termed `beds in sheds` and `modern day shanty towns` in news discourse, the slum-like living conditions are rented out for extortionate rents by ruthless landlords, many of them reported to be of Indian origin.

The `modern day shanty towns`, often visible on websites
such as Google Earth, are plagued with rats, cockroaches and are considered potential death traps with dodgy wiring and poor sanitation.

Among the measures top on the agenda is closer coordination with the Indian high commission to help those illegal immigrants seeking to return home.

Local councils are being encouraged to make greater use of legal powers across planning, fire safety, housing and environmental health.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: "It is a scandal that these back garden slums exist to exploit people, many of whom are prepared to return voluntarily to their home country but instead find themselves trapped into paying extortionate rents to live in these cramped conditions".

He added: "I want to see a crackdown on these criminal landlords.

"So today we are launching a national taskforce, made up of the police, local councils, the UK Border Agency and HM Revenue and Customs to close down these `beds in sheds`, help those living there to be reunited with their families and ensure their so-called landlords feel the full force of the law."

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "Those with no right to be in the UK must leave the country. If they volunteer to leave, we will help. If they refuse, we will enforce their removal.

"The UK Border Agency will do whatever is necessary, working with local authorities and the police, to clear up this problem and enforce our laws against those who are in the UK illegally and the employers who exploit them".


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