Trafficking in false promises
Immigration tricksters in Punjab region prey on Indians who hope for new lives in Canada
Jan 29, 2009 04:30 AM
SOUTH ASIA BUREAU
Kapurthala, India–One morning in February 2007, Harvinder Singh read an ad in a local newspaper that promised to change his life.
The ad offered a visa to Canada and a $450-a-week job as a kitchen helper at a Crowne Plaza hotel in Toronto. Singh answered the ad, and agreed to pay an immigration consultant a $12,500 advance and an equal amount when his immigration documents were prepared.
Today, however, Singh, 31, is still working for his father in this blue-collar city in the northern Punjab region, manning the family photo shop and tending 1.2 hectares of wheat fields on the outskirts of town.
Police say the rise of unregulated immigration consultants is the most troubling crime trend in the state, ahead of a burgeoning drug problem and sectarian violence.
Immigration consultancy is one of the occupations that has exploded out of Canada's immigration industry. It is unregulated which means anyone can be an immigration consultant. All you need is an office and a telephone and that's it. Ethics are optional and may in fact hinder your success.
Because it is unregulated and since Canadian citizenship trades high in the international citizenship market immigration consultancy has attracted many unscrupulous individuals. Sadly many of these shady people are immigrants to Canada themselves who "consult" other immigrants on how to game Canada's immigration system, that is if they are not gaming their clients.
A city of about 1.4 million where a distillery and railcar assembly line are the main employers, Kapurthala may be ground zero for immigration fraud, say Canadian immigration officials in Chandigarh, the state capital of Punjab
"The five visa officers who staff the Chandigarh mission's consular section are deluged with applications sent with phony documents, mission staff say. Over the past year, 85 per cent of employment letters related to work visa applications have been forgeries.
Although no hard statistics are available, staff say other categories such as temporary visit and student visas are similarly rife with fraud. And unlike Singh, some would-be immigrants are willing participants in their bogus applications, staff say.
The article gives some examples.
One doctored bank document suggested a visa applicant had a balance of about $25,000 when he actually had about $7.50
A fake airline ticket submitted in another case shows an applicant had booked a direct flight between Toronto and New Delhi on a route Air Canada no longer flies.
Then there are forged letters from Canadian funeral homes, submitted by applicants asking to travel to Canada after a death in the family.
I've blogged about the Chandigarh consulate before and you can read it here.
Chandigarh is the capitol city of Punjab and the Canadian consulate is the only diplomatic mission in the city. That's because it was established by a Liberal government to reward Indo-Canadian voters, mostly Sikh voters, for voting Liberal in previous elections. It was built irrespective of warnings that the Punjab region of India is a "hot bed" for fraud. The mission seems to benefit no one aside from Sikhs living in Canada, Sikhs living in the Punjab, for ethnic vote pandering politicians, and it serves no other purpose than to import more Sikhs into Canada. Aside from that it is a waste of $25 million dollars a year. Canada already has diplomatic missions in India. It doesn't need one in Chandigarh.
Ethnic vote pandering is not beneath any Canadian politician of course. Here is the Toronto Star's Ian Urquhart on Ontario Premier Dalton McGunity's visit to Punjab during his trade mission to India.
On his previous stops in his tour of India – Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai (Bombay) – McGuinty was received politely but nonchalantly. Indians in those cities have been inundated with foreign dignitaries in recent years and have become rather blasé about it.
But it was an entirely different story in Punjab, which is in the north end of the country and somewhat off the beaten track for foreign visitors.
Why did McGuinty go there?
Punjab is the homeland of the Sikhs, and there are some 250,000 Sikhs living in Ontario, including three MPPs who accompanied McGuinty on his tour: Harinder Takhar, minister of small business, and backbenchers Kuldip Kular and Vic Dhillon.
What all this had to do with a trade mission to India is a good question.
The business leaders who had been accompanying McGuinty at the earlier stops all abandoned the tour before it reached Punjab. Their absence in Punjab was disdainfully noted by the half-dozen representatives of the Punjabi-Canadian media following McGuinty on his tour. They peppered him with questions about what business was actually being transacted in Punjab, and McGuinty responded with bafflegab.
The answer to the question, of course, is that the Punjab leg of the tour was an opportunity for McGuinty to have positive images of himself beamed back to voters in ridings in Brampton and Mississauga, where Ontario's Sikhs are concentrated.
It was, in effect, a giant photo op.
It's interesting to read that the business leaders accompanying McGuinty skipped Punjab entirely as if to say with their absence that there is no real value in Punjab, India. That being the case then why does Canada have a diplomatic mission in Punjab's capital city, the only foreign mission in the city if not to appease Sikh voters living in Canada?
On a side not I found this paragraph from the first article interesting.
The male-to-female birth ratio, meantime, is one of the worst in India, meaning young men are having a difficult time finding brides. "There's not much of a future for many young men there," said a Canadian visa officer. "It makes them do desperate things.
The reason for that is abortion. One of the great hall marks of the modern feminist movement is to make it easier for female fetuses to be aborted to favour a male child. Sadly, but perhaps not unexpectedly that practice happens here in Canada care of the taxpayers. That's multiculturalism for ya!
An offshoot of marriage fraud, 'rent a guest' schemes in India designed to scam Canadian immigration.