BBC sting reveals exploitation of illegal Punjabi migrants

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London, Jul 17 (UNI) A criminal network in west London, which allegedly exploits illegal immigrants from India, mostly Punjabis, has been exposed by an undercover BBC News investigation.

The network, which operates in Punjabi-dominated suburb of Southall, allegedly provides illegal immigrants forged or stolen identity papers and helps them secure a job in Britain, the BBC sting revealed.

During the investigation, widespread unlawful job practices, squalid housing, and a thriving trade in fake documents were uncovered. More than 40 houses packed with illegal immigrants were identified in one square mile of Southall, the report said.

''The young, mostly male Punjabis are not here lawfully and, although most know the risks, they have few legal rights. They are surrounded by forgers, criminals and ruthless employers,'' it added.

A team of BBC's undercover reporters met and filmed a man who called himself 'Vicki'.

He was careful about his security - moving the car in which they talked away from CCTV cameras - but open about the fake documents he could obtain, and boasted about customers as far afield as Sheffield, Bradford and Coventry.

Vicki said he could get people into the country on lorries, known as donkeys, organised by what he called his ''man in Paris'', and told how he could provide a fake ''original'' passport that had been ''checked'' to beat security at a UK airport.

When Vicki was later confronted with the details of what had been filmed, he denied doing anything wrong and said it was a case of mistaken identity.

The Indian illegal immigrants, known within the network as 'faujis', find work in Southall but often at rates below the national minimum wage.

The undercover team found there was no shortage of job offers, including at a Southall chip shop where a fauji told of being employed for 12-hour days, six days a week at 150 pounds - about two pounds an hour.

One reporter, Mohammed, went there for work. The owner, Bhupinder Singh, said to ''never mind'' the fact he had no papers, that he would ''handle that issue'' and that the reporter should not mention it ''otherwise you may be nicked''.

After a 14-hour day with no break, Mohammed claimed he had another job to go to and asked for his day's pay, but Mr Singh refused, saying, ''You don't get paid for two weeks, right?'' Mr Singh has told the BBC that he does not employ illegal immigrants, that all his staff have the correct paperwork and permission to reside and work in the UK, and that he did not pay Mohammed because it was a training day.

Another time Mohammed went to an area well known to Southall faujis, where they wait at the roadside to be picked up for casual labour. A man approached and a job ''interview'' was conducted.

Mohammed was taken to a building site and, without being asked whether he had any experience, was put to work on a roof parapet with no training, safety advice or kit. He was paid 35 pounds for 12 hours' labour.

Time and again the importance of having the right paperwork was clear. Showing how easy it was to get hold of it, the undercover team filmed another fake document supplier, Anil Kumar.

When Mr Kumar was later confronted, he also said he had done nothing wrong and that it was a case of mistaken identity.

UNI XC RJ NS2007

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