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India, US vow to combat illegal migrations, trafficking, terror at joint security meet

Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla led New Delhi’s delegation at the India-US Homeland Security Dialogue. Kristie Canegallo, the acting deputy secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, led the delegation from Washington DC.
Last Updated 29 February 2024, 02:47 IST

New Delhi: Even as the recent arrest of a man in Chicago brought back the focus on the trafficking of persons from India to the United States, the officials of the two nations had a meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday to explore ways to step up cooperation to deal with the problem of illegal migration.

The two sides also inked a memorandum for cooperation between India’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy and the US Federal Law Enforcement Training Centre. The agreement will pave the way for India’s law enforcement officials to undergo training in the US.

Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla led New Delhi’s delegation at the India-US Homeland Security Dialogue. Kristie Canegallo, the acting deputy secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, led the delegation from Washington DC.

Bhalla and Canegallo also reaffirmed the commitment of New Delhi and Washington DC to strengthening the vibrant people-to-people ties between the two countries, by taking steps to enable safe and legal migration, counter illegal migration, human trafficking, money laundering, cyber-crimes, and misuse of the cyber domain for illegal activities including terror-financing, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The meeting took place just a few days after the arrest of Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel a.k.a. ‘Dirty Harry’ in connection with the January 2021 deaths of a couple and their two children from Gujarat in India in Manitoba in Canada while illegally crossing over to Minnesota in the United States in freezing temperature.

The frozen bodies of Jagdish and Vaishali Patel, both in their thirties, and their 11-year-old daughter Vihangi and three-year-old son Dharmik had been found just about 12 kilometres away from the Canada-US border. Harshkumar Patel and another human trafficker Steve Shand, now awaiting trial, had been involved with the racket, which had arranged for the ill-fated family’s journey through blizzard along with other illegal migrants.

The number of illegal immigrants from India encountered by the American Customs and Border Protection authorities on the borders of the US rose from 8027 between October 2018 to September 2019 to 30,662 in the same period in 2020-21 and to 60,927 in 2021-22, Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan, informed Rajya Sabha on December 14 last year. He cited the data available on the website of the US Customs and Border Protection. The number went up to 96,917 in 2022-23, he informed in response to a query.

A new estimate by the Pew Research Centre showed that the US had 725,000 illegal immigrants from India. They account for the third largest population of illegal immigrants in the US after the ones from Mexico and El Salvador.

Bhalla and Canegallo reiterated the keen interests of New Delhi and Washington DC in consolidating the mutually beneficial collaboration between the respective law enforcement agencies through the exchange of information, capacity building, technical assistance, and regular meetings of sub-groups set up under the framework of the homeland security dialogue.

The two sides discussed steps that can be taken to bolster bilateral efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism, drug trafficking, organised crime and ensure transportation security.

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(Published 29 February 2024, 02:47 IST)

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