Arrest of 108 Indian immigration agents reveals all about donkey route to US

The IGI Airport Police has tried to strike at the root of the illegal immigration network by arresting 108 agents in the six months of 2024. The crackdown goes beyond just arresting passengers, and reveals secrets of the donkey route.
Arrest of 108 Indian immigration agents reveals all about donkey route to US
Image: Delhi Police IGIA Unit

When an elderly Sikh man standing in the queue at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport spoke, the CISF officials smelt something was not adding up. A bespectacled Guru Sevak Singh with his white beard didn't sound like a 67-year-old person. That's what led to his arrest and the revelation of how he was about to fly to Canada and take the donkey route to the US.

Earlier, the story would have ended with the arrest of 24-year-old Guru Sevak Singh, who was pretending to be 67 and was flying out. However, Delhi Police has decided to strike at the root of the problem. Investigations now don't end with just the arrest of passengers but getting to the immigration agents who are an intrinsic part of the illegal network that spans across several countries around the world.

In the last six months, IGI Airport Police has arrested 108 fraudulent immigration agents, according to Delhi Police data, reports news agency ANI. The number of arrests in six months is double the 51 made in the same period in 2023.

"Arrests have been made nationwide, including in Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, and West Bengal," Delhi Police said.

The crackdown has also revealed how the visa-on-arrival facility extended by several countries to Indians is exploited by these agents to send dunkis on the donkey route.

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Arrest of 108 Indian immigration agents reveals all about donkey route to US

Donkey routes are used for illegal immigration to Asian countries as well. In many cases, the visa-on-arrival scheme is abused for this.

Agents exploit passengers by sending them to countries offering visa-on-arrival to Indian nationals, and organising routes that facilitate illegal border crossings into destination countries.

Eleven immigration agents involved in this were arrested in 2024.

Delhi Police have even returned to earlier cases where only passengers were arrested to nail the immigration agents involved. Investigating officers were told to track down and prosecute these agents.

In 2024, 51 immigration agents from the previous cases, where only passengers who would have been sent on donkey routes were arrested, have been apprehended.

"Several Proclaimed Offenders (POs), mostly from cases over a decade old, have been apprehended this year, demonstrating the police's commitment to resolving long-standing cases," according to the police statement.

The IGI Airport Police probe has revealed how methods like affixing fake departure stamps, fake visas, forged passports and work permits, and fake identities are created for illegal immigration.

In fake-visa cases, immigration agents created and provided counterfeit visas to passengers that resembled genuine visas.

In the six months of 2024, 24 agents have been nabbed for trying to send passengers with similar facial features on someone else's passport.

Agents send passengers with fake Schengen visas to easily accessible European countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, from where they are put on the donkey route through Central American countries to reach the US border.

"The journey along the donkey route began from Ecuador. We travelled all day, sometimes by bus, sometimes by car," Jitendra, who was deported back to India from the US after spending 11 months at a detention camp, told IndiaToday.In, earlier. He recounted how he, along with other dunkis, crossed choppy seas in small, rickety boats.

Jitendra said he spent Rs 40 lakh to reach the US. Guru Sevak Singh, the man from Lucknow who was arrested recently from IGI, was paying Rs 60 lakh. The donkey route charges are different for different countries. If it is about Rs 15 lakh for Portugal, Rs 25 lakh for Germany, and Rs 45 lakh for the US.

A record number of 96,917 Indians were nabbed or expelled in 2023 for trying to cross into the US, according to US Customs and Border Protection data. Thousands more might have been able to successfully make it into the US.

It is the immigration agents who sell the dreams and try to earn quick money from unsuspecting Indians. The police crackdown on the immigration agents, who form the core of the donkey route business, will save many lives that are lost on the deadly routes.

Source: India Today

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