African students run into visa roadblocks – Anger swells up within 28-year-old John, a B.Sc. (Nursing) student from Nigeria. “I have started writing letters to the Nigerian government to expel all Indians staying there, legally and illegally. The government needs to know how Indians treat us here,” he says.
The government has detained many for overstaying in Bengaluru, but they say it is just prejudice
In the past month, at least 117 foreigners (businessmen, students, employees in private companies), particularly those from Africa, have been detained by enforcement authorities. At least 90% of them are from the Nigerian community, said a police official. All of them await an uncertain future, after they were found to have overstayed in the city.
“Three of those arrested are pregnant women, who have no food, medication or congenial atmosphere in the jail. All of them have been trying to get their visa extended. They have not overstayed wilfully. They had no choice, and without any notice or an opportunity for hearing, they have been arrested,” says a Nigerian man, who asked not to be named.
Every once in a while, there is a drive to identify, arrest and prosecute foreigners illegally staying in Karnataka. At the heart of it is Bengaluru, where scores of colleges go the extra mile to attract students from abroad, particularly from Africa.
The city police have identified 1,034 overstaying foreigners, of whom 1,002 are in and around Bengaluru. In July, a “special drive” by the city police and Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) saw at least 117 of them getting arrested. “Of these, six were arrested for possession of narcotics. Over 720 gm of cocaine, LSD and marijuana were seized,” said Abdul Ahad, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Whitefield Division.
Just two women agreed to be deported; the rest have decided to challenge their detention in court. “They’ll come out on bail. They are bound to lose the case, but on coming out on bail, the case will be prolonged,” said a senior FRRO official.
The current drive has worsened the already uneasy relationship between foreign students, local authorities and the residents. Karnataka has 12,041 foreign students, or nearly 26% of all foreigners studying in India, as per the All India Survey on Higher Education 2017-18 of the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
For the Nigerian students, the sailing isn’t smooth. “I know four batchmates who were sent back at the end of the course because the college didn’t give a letter stating the students were enrolled. The FRRO did not listen, and asked them to go back to apply for fresh visas. But getting an Indian visa is difficult. Do they do this to students from Germany or England? Why only Nigerians,” asked a student.
Others from the Nigerian community talk about being stereotyped as criminals, drug peddlers and scammers. FRRO officials deny that Africans or Nigerians are targeted. “They do not provide documents. We give extensions of three months on humanitarian grounds, but even then they do not provide documents,” says an official.
Credit: The Hindu
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