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India mulls stricter rules on illegal B’deshis
Published on 3 Feb. 2009 12:42 AM IST
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With some 25,000 Bangladeshis staying beyond the visit period stamped on their Indian visas every year, there are moves to enforce stricter norms while granting such travel permits, with bank guarantees acting as possible deterrents. The home ministry has asked the external affairs ministry for suggestions on how to ensure that visitors from the neighbouring country do not overstay. “One of our main problems is that only 10 percent of legitimate visitors from Bangladesh use air travel to enter or exit,” explained an official in the external affairs ministry, confirming the directive from the home office. Bangladeshi nationals account for more than half the foreign nationals who abscond after expiry of their visa permits. While it is difficult to find current records, as per an answer tabled in the Rajya Sabha there were over 35,000 Bangladeshis among the 62,998 foreign nationals reported “missing” in 2004. The Indian high commission in Dhaka is arguably the busiest Indian mission worldwide in terms of visa applicants. India receives 2,000-3,000 applications for visas from Bangladeshi nationals every day, and more than 500,000 visas are issued every year. About 25,000 of them stay back beyond the visa tenure. This trend has increased in the last four years. In 2005, only 12,338 Bangladeshis overstayed out of the 485,640 people granted permission to enter India. This doubled the next year in 2006, when 24,497 Bangladeshis were recorded as not having left the country.This increased to 25,712 in 2007, from among 500,234 Bangladeshi visitors. In September-October last year, Indian officials visited Dhaka, Chittagong and some of the border posts to look at inter-linking these over the Internet. “But when it comes to the various entry-exit points on the border, some places do not even have uninterrupted electricity. In the process, leave alone getting the posts networked, even stand-alone computers don’t work several hours a day,” the official told IANS. The question of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants has been regularly raised in parliament, and some state governments complain that such influx posed law and order problems. The most ‘abused’ category reportedly is the tourist visa, which accouns for 50 percent of visa seekers. “Usually, small businessmen come to India on the tourist category, which requires only a proof of residence. But for business visa, you need a sponsor letter from their business partners in India, a recommendation letter from a business chamber, letter of credit and banker certificate on volume of business,” he said. The proposals for strengthening the processing and monitoring of Bangladeshi nationals are now being looked into by the external affairs ministry. One of the stricter rules being considered is to get the residence proof ‘guaranteed’ by a local bank. “Even if we catch a Bangladeshi national illegally overstaying, authorities there often reject the documents as being inadequate or unverifiable. So we want some document with us to authenticate his nationality and residence with a bank guarantee,” he said. Also, the authorities want to be more exacting while examining the visa applicant’s details of stay in India. “The details usually contain the name of a hotel, but now we want more specific details, which could be verified before giving visa,” he said. The home affairs ministry also wants an automatic alarm system that will indicate when a person who has entered the country has not ‘checked out’ from any of the exit points in the stipulated period. “We are slowly moving towards the Pakistan-type monitoring and verification for Bangladeshi nationals,” said an official. But, he clarified, India cannot follow the India-Pakistan restrictions on locations and police reporting as changes in visa regulations are based on bilateral visa agreement.

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