Wednesday, June 16, 2021

‘Migration pact will help return illegal settlers, offenders’: UK home secretary Priti Patel

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The new India-UK migration and mobility partnership and a proposed British law on migration will facilitate the movement of Indian professionals and simultaneously streamline the process of returning illegal migrants and offenders, British home secretary Priti Patel said on Monday.

The UK government understands the importance and significance of speedily resolving the cases of economic offenders such as Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya and is working with the courts to address “legal challenges” in order to ensure “just outcomes”, Patel said in an interview.

The migration and mobility partnership, signed by Patel and external affairs minister S Jaishankar to coincide with the virtual India-UK Summit on May 4, will facilitate up to 3,000 young Indian professionals availing employment in the UK every year, and also enhance bilateral cooperation in combating illegal migration.

The two sides have set April 2022 as the deadline for implementing the partnership and Patel described the arrangement as an “unprecedented” and a “bespoke” route to benefit young professionals from the UK and India. “At some stage, when we publish the figures on the new points-based immigration system [introduced by the UK last year], you will see that India is benefiting enormously from this because it’s a professional route,” she said.

Patel also spoke of her plans for introducing a new legislation on illegal migration during the state opening of the UK Parliament on Tuesday, which she described as a “big reform” that will “facilitate the path for [illegal Indian migrants] to be returned back to India”.

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“So we have many legal obstacles in the UK, I’m not going to sugar-coat that. These legal obstacles end up in the courts, people will use appeal, it is a complete legal merry-go-round,” she said. These reforms will streamline the process of identifying illegal migrants and also address “some of the extradition challenges that we have faced over years”, she added.

Asked specifically about the extradition of Nirav Modi and Mallya, Patel said many of the complexities and legalities surrounding illegal migrants also apply to both these cases. She contended she had changed the relationship between the UK and Indian governments in respect of extradition, and the British side was working to resolve these cases as speedily as possible.

“So we are absolutely clear of the importance and the significance of these cases and quite rightly, we want them to progress as swiftly as possible. It serves no purpose to keep having these cases tied up within the legal wrangling,” she said.

“I ordered on April 15 the extradition of Nirav Modi and… that’s in the public domain. He has indicated that… he’s appealing on extradition. So instantly, we’re in a legal process. So I can’t comment further on any of that whatsoever,” she said.

Asked specifically if Mallya had applied for asylum in the UK Patel said: “I can’t sit and share with you the ins and outs of all of that because that would prejudice the case. That’s not right and I don’t want to do that.”

Patel only said that there are “legal challenges” and “clearly we have to work with the courts and that is what we’re doing because we need just outcomes”. She added: “There are legal processes and the fairness and the firmness that comes with those legal processes need to be respected.”

Fugitive businessman Nirav Modi’s extradition was cleared after a British court found him guilty of fraud and money laundering in the Punjab National Bank scam. He was the second high-profile economic offender after former liquor baron Mallya whose extradition was cleared by a trial court in the UK.

Patel evaded a direct response to a question on whether the case of UK national Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, had been taken up with the Indian side after a UN panel ruled his detention was arbitrary.

“If you don’t mind, it’s not for me to disclose what is discussed in private meetings…there’s plenty of engagements around cases of that nature with FCDO [UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] and those engagements will continue,” she replied.

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