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Karnataka home minister worried over illegal immigrants

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru | October 15, 2008 14:31 IST

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Karnataka's latest concern is the overstaying of Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in the state.

Home Minister Dr V S Acharya told mediapersons that he had appealed to the Union government to introduce a national personal identification registrar for identifying foreigners who are staying in the state after the expiry of their visas.

The question now is how serious is the concern voiced by the home minister of Karnataka. Illegal immigrants and terrorism are being interlinked and Karnataka is no stranger to terror thanks to numerous arrests that have been carried out in the state.

Statistics would reveal that eight per cent out of the 1.6 crore illegal immigrants in the country are from Karnataka.

Police officials in the state said most of these persons had come to the state in search of work and have stayed back.

Intelligence Bureau officials told that these persons had primarily come in search of work and have just overstayed. The influx of Bangladeshi immigrants into Karnataka started in 2001 when the state started to develop at a rapid pace, the IB added.

Unike the north-eastern states, Karnataka has not seen a direct influx of illegal immigrants. Those persons who had strayed into the north-eastern states are the ones who finally landed up in Karnataka and over the years they have shifted almost their entire family into the state.

The route to Karnataka and Mangalore, Karnataka's fastest growing city today, begins in West Bengal, north-eastern atates, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh [Images]. The maximum these persons have to travel to reach Mangalore is 36 hours by train.

The IB said that these immigrants do not come into the state with an intention of carrying out subversive activities. They initially come in search of work and when it is time for them to leave they are targeted by terror operatives.

In Karnataka too and especially in Mangalore, which is a fast growing city, illegal immigrants were offered money and protection in exchange of intelligence.

These immigrants, who are extremely vulnerable, are used to gather intelligence and tip off operatives about the movement of security agencies.

A police official in Mangalore said the persons who come and work at construction sites have no records whatsoever.

"Most of them just come in search of work. It is only some of them that fall into the trap of terror operatives, but we cannot take chances and this problem has to be sorted out immediately," the official said.

The police also said that those persons giving these illegal migrants job too have a responsibility. They usually appoint such persons because the labour is cheap. The Mangalore police have already commenced combing operations. Such operations are carried out in slums, construction sites and fishermen coves where these persons are mostly likely to stay.

Fliers have been sent out to all builders in Mangalore and its surrounding areas to keep a watch and also the records of the persons that they are hiring to work.

A builder in Mangalore, who did not want to be quoted for this report, said that he is aware of the problem. He said they have decided to cooperate with the police and will keep a check on the persons they hire.

"At times we do not scrutinise all those persons who work at our construction site. However, I must add that the government too needs to help out by issuing identification cards to workers too. We could appoint such persons based on their ID cards," he also said.

Acharya said the problem has to be addressed before it gets out of hand. He said that most illegal immigrants are found in the coastal belt. Most of these persons have stayed back despite the expiry of their visa period.

They are becoming dangerous as they are creating communal trouble in the state. We will identify such persons and deport them straight away, the home minister added.

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