Experts urge British government to nip trend ‘in the bud’ as free visa entry to Europe gateway is being used by Indian nationals to make perilous journey.
The number of Indian nationals arriving in the UK illegally via small boats has increased by 800 percent in four years, an Epoch Times analysis found.
Since 2019, more than 1,746 Indians have been recorded as having made the perilous journey across the English Channel, with figures dramatically increasing this year.
In the first quarter of 2023, Indian arrivals came second only to the largest small boat group, Afghans, reported to be fleeing the grip of the Taliban.
Experts say the surprising hike in Indians recorded as seeking asylum via small boat is due to a combination of factors, including India’s visa-free entry deal with Serbia—considered the gateway to Europe—and a climate of inequality and discrimination in their home country.
However, Mike Jones, executive director of Migrant Watch UK, said the increasing trend needs to be addressed by the British government.
He told The Epoch Times: “It is important that the UK government acts quickly and decisively to nip this developing trend in the bud.
“This means expanding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed with India on illegal immigration in 2021 and press[ing] Delhi to act quickly to document and accept back its citizens.
“The 2021 MOU clearly failed to take account of actions like the intentional destruction of documents which greatly inhibits returns.”
The figures can be revealed as Britain continues talks with India in the hopes of securing a milestone post-Brexit deal which has been marred in controversy over recent months.
The long-sought-after free trade agreement hit a stumbling block in July when ministers refused to grant more visas to Indian workers.
India has made access to the UK jobs market through internal company moves and access to the services sector for its citizens a key part of its demands from any trade deal.
However, Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch told MPs on a Westminster committee that “an FTA with India will not contain commitments on immigration or provide access to the UK domestic labor market.”
Earlier this month, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said a UK-India trade deal could be agreed by the end of the year. Mr. Hunt said there was “real political momentum” behind a deal, but the next few weeks would be crucial.
Last week, the prime minister was forced to defend his ongoing after claims India was behind the execution of a Sikh activist in Canada.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate of Sikh independence from India, was gunned down outside a cultural centre in British Columbia in June.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was continuing trade talks with India, whose government denied having any role in the murder, but said he remained in “close touch” with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
A senior Canadian diplomat has since been expelled by India, which accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs.
Statistics show that more than 11,500 Indians applied for asylum worldwide last year with the UK one of the top five countries where Indian nationals sought protection.
The others include the United States, Canada, Cyprus, and Austria.