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Source: London Evening Standard

Police today smashed an Afghan gang suspected of making up to £1 million a year by selling  smartphones stolen from London commuters.

The gang allegedly employed pickpockets to operate across the capital’s Tube and rail services, preying on passengers carrying expensive smartphones. Police say the gang on its own accounts for a large proportion of crime on London’s transport network.

The stolen phones are repackaged to look brand new and shipped to Dubai, northern Africa and eastern Europe using professional export companies. Stolen iPhones and other smart devices can fetch up to £300 abroad.

In today’s dawn raids, officers from British Transport Police seized about 1,000 suspected stolen phones as well as more than £13,000 in cash and gold bars from lock-ups, businesses and residential properties.

Thirteen men, both Afghan and British nationals, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to handle stolen goods and money laundering. Three were held for immigration offences.

At a £600,000 riverside apartment in Gunnersbury, officers arrested the suspected ringleader, an Afghan Sikh in his forties.

Police found more than 200 Samsung Galaxy S4s in an Audi Q7 in the basement car park — one of three top-of-the-range vehicles being searched.

Chief Superintendent Paul Brogden, leading Operation Magnum, said: “These are not petty criminals. They are in the upper echelons of the criminal network behind the pickpocketing that’s carried out on Tube and rail networks — particularly the West End.

“They are trying to put a legitimate front on it and this is how organised criminal networks operate.

“They repackage the phones, even going as far as to put barcodes on them, and then export the devices through courier companies.

“Each of these stolen phones, of which there are hundreds, has a victim.” About 150 BTP officers raided 21 addresses across the capital this morning. Targets included two phone shops in the East End and an export business in Hounslow.

Source: Sikh Sangat News

London, UK: 

The involvement of human traffickers in the case involving 35 Afghan Sikh stowaways, found inside an airtight shipping container on a dockyard in British port, has been confirmed with the arrest of a third person, a media report said today.

Police arrested a third man in connection with the death, a special investigation by the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ has confirmed the hand of human traffickers behind the death of one of the Afghan Sikh men and how 34 others, including women and children ended up close to suffocation in the container.

Meet Singh Kapoor, 40, was one of 35 persons from Afghanistan, discovered at Tilbury Docks in Essex on August 16. A 47-year-old man from Dungannon in Northern Ireland has been arrested at Liverpool Ferry Port and will be transferred into the custody of Essex Police.

Two other men also charged in connection with the death remain in custody to appear at Basildon Crown Court in November, the police said.

Source: The Indian Express

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar

A majority of Hindu-Sikh refugees from Afghanistan say that they have not been able to get Indian citizenship despite spending close to two decades here. As per norms, however, they are eligible for Indian citizenship once they spend seven years in the country. The fake passport racket by Afghan refugees in India has highlighted this fact too.

Over the years, a large number of Hindu-Sikh have migrated from war-ravaged Afghanistan, where they have lived for ages, and have been living in various localities of Delhi.

We should not be harassed by the government as we must be granted citizenship because we don’t have any identity here.

“All of us have Afghan documents as identity proofs and after spending the specified time limit we applied for Indian citizenship which the government could have provided after proper investigation but till date, majority of us have not been issued citizenship,” said one such migrant Guldeep Singh, a relative of one the Afghan refugees arrested in the fake passport case.

Another migrant M S Arora, who lives in Delhi, said that there were a large number of Afghan Sikhs have been fighting to get citizenship.

“We should not be harassed by the government as we must be granted citizenship because we don’t have any identity here,” he added.

Police sources in Nawanshahr also revealed that one of those arrested, Deep Kaur, whose original name is Mandip Kaur, had come to India in 1992 when she was just three months old and despite spending her entire life here, she was not granted Indian citizenship without which she could not apply for an Indian passport. Police said that she finally procured the passport on a fake name as she wanted to join her husband in Moscow.

As per the Indian Citizenship Act 1955,  subsequently amended, any migrant who spends over seven year in the country can be granted citizenship after proper investigation.

A senior police officer, on the condition of anonymity, admitted that it was the system which forced the refugees to seek the fake passports but added that they cannot be pardoned as it was illegal.

Police, meanwhile, named P K Jain, Manmeet Singh of Delhi, and one Harbans Singh of Nawanshahr district as those involved in getting the fake passports with connivance of police, postmen and agents.

Source: DNA India

The involvement of human traffickers in the case involving 35 Afghan Sikh stowaways, found inside an airtight shipping container on a dockyard in British port, has been confirmed with the arrest of a third person, a media report said on Sunday.

Police arrested a third man in connection with the death, a special investigation by the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ has confirmed the hand of human traffickers behind the death of one of the Afghan Sikh men and how 34 others, including women and children ended up close to suffocation in the container.

Meet Singh Kapoor, 40, was one of 35 people from Afghanistan, discovered at Tilbury Docks in Essex on August 16.

A 47-year-old man from Dungannon in Northern Ireland has been arrested at Liverpool Ferry Port and will be transferred into the custody of Essex Police. Two other men also charged in connection with the death remain in custody to appear at Basildon Crown Court in November, the police said.

A 34-year-old from Rose Park, Limavady, Londonderry and another aged 33, of Elmgrove, Londonderry are both charged with conspiring to facilitate illegal entry into the UK.

Kapoor, in a bid to escape a heavy debt, tried to leave his hometown of Jalalabad in Afghanistan with his wife and two children.

According to the newspaper investigation, Kapoor and his family may have paid as much as 1,200 pounds to human traffickers to smuggle them across the border into Iran, then through Turkey into Bulgaria or northern Greece.

From there the journey, by lorry, would have taken them through Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Germany.

In June, Kapoor rang his uncle in Jalalabad to tell him they had made it as far as Belgium and were trying to secure a passage to the UK.

“Everyone gets the help of human traffickers; no one can get a visa for the UK, so Meet Singh was also using those ways,” his uncle was quoted as saying by the paper.

The final leg of their journey involved them being sealed inside the cargo container with 18 other adults and 13 children aged one to 12 some time before it was loaded on a lorry onto a P&O roll-on, roll-off ferry at Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Dock workers broke into the container after hearing screams and cries from inside.

The migrants, including Kapoor’s wife and children, were cared for initially by members of the Sikh community in Essex and are now in the care of the Home Office while their application for asylum status is being considered.

A Home Office spokesperson said, “This tragic incident is a reminder of the devastating human consequences of illegal migration and we will do all we can to help bring those responsible to justice.”

“Following the conclusion of police interviews, the individuals involved have now been passed into our care. All 34 are now in the process of claiming asylum in the UK and we are providing accommodation and support to those who require it while their cases are considered,” the spokesperson added.

“The UK takes its international obligations extremely seriously and has a proud history of offering protection to those who need it,” he said.

“We want his body brought back to Afghanistan for a proper ceremony. Now we hope that his children will not be kicked out of the UK,” his uncle Daleep Singh said.

Kapoor’s spice business had begun to suffer and plunged him into debt as he tried to keep the business afloat.

One of his principal creditors was a wealthy fruit importer, Haji Ghondai, who demanded USD 400,000 as repayment for a loan of USD 70,000 he took out. He had also lost ownership of the family home.

Kapoor’s intention was to make it to the UK, where he had a brother and several other relatives who had managed to enter the country.

Source: Hindustan Times

PTI   London, September 06, 2014

A third person has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter over the death of one of the 35 Afghan Sikh stowaways found inside an airtight shipping container on a dockyard in British port last month.

The dead man, identified as 40-year-old Meet Singh Kapoor, was one of 35 people from Afghanistan, discovered at Tilbury Docks in Essex on August 16.

Police said a 47-year-old man from Dungannon in Northern Ireland has been arrested at Liverpool Ferry Port and will be transferred into the custody of Essex Police.

Two other men also charged in connection with the death remain in custody to appear at Basildon Crown Court in November.

A 34-year-old from Rose Park, Limavady, Londonderry and another aged 33, of Elmgrove, Londonderry are both charged with conspiring to facilitate illegal entry into the UK.

The 34 survivors, including 10 men, nine women and 15 children with their ages ranging from one to 72, were found screaming and banging after arriving at Tilbury docks in Essex from Belgium.

The people who were rescued from the airtight container after an 18-hour ordeal are in care of the Home Office after being discharged from hospital and have sought asylum in the UK.

The survivors were hospitalised, many of whom suffered with severe dehydration and hypothermia.

Source: BBC

By Melanie Abbott

In August, 35 Afghan Sikhs were found in a container at Tilbury docks – one had died. But why are they so desperate to come to the UK?

The prayer hall at the Afghan Sikh temple in west London is packed with worshippers listening to the harmoniums and drums. Most of the people inside have at one time fled from Afghanistan. It is a country thought of as Muslim but there is a tiny minority of Sikhs, and their numbers are ever dwindling as they try to escape persecution.

Very little had been heard about Afghan Sikhs until 35 were found at Tilbury docks nearly three weeks ago. Those who were found alive in the shipping container are now claiming asylum so they can join relatives and friends already in Southall. The temple has been helping them with donations of food and clothing.

Officials like vice president Harbans Singh Handa were shocked at what happened. “My heart really hurt when I heard the news and I just couldn’t believe that they would risk their lives. They’ve already died a death in Afghanistan, their rights have been taken away, and yet they’re willing to risk death to come here,” he said.

Many Afghan Sikhs in Southall took long, circuitous journeys to get to the UK, relying on smuggling gangs to help them get out of Afghanistan. In one of Southall’s markets, Manmeet Singh explained how he used an agent to get him to Pakistan.

“In Pakistan somebod

y told me there is a safe place, England, very nice people are there. So I took four aeroplanes to get to Heathrow. There were very kind people at the airport as well. They told me don’t worry about everything,” he said.

Pressure to convert
That was 12 years ago and now Mr Singh has a successful business. But he left behind a thriving shop full of stock abandoned when he fled.

It is estimated that the number of Sikhs in Afghanistan has shrunk from around 100,000 three decades ago to somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 now. So what is fuelling the exodus?

The turmoil of the civil war in Afghanistan in 1992 and the subsequent rise of the Taliban left many with their civil liberties infringed. But the Sikhs say it has been worse for them.

Cremations, a fundamental part of their belief, are frowned on. The practice is forbidden under Islamic law and the main cremation ground in Kabul was moved miles out of the city. And there is pressure to convert to Islam.

Mr Singh said: “There are hassles and beatings and sometimes they want money. At fasting time, when we are cooking, they come, spill the food and there are beatings as well. They ask ‘why do you not fast? Why do you not become Muslims?'”

The Taliban forced the Sikhs to wear yellow armbands and the Sikhs say they were pushed out of top jobs and their children were discriminated against in schools.

Bhajan Singh Kapoor, who runs a charity to support Afghan Sikhs, said: “A whole generation of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs has remained illiterate in the past 30 years. Because of this war and turmoil they cannot be educated in the government-run institutions because of bullying.

“Previous to the war in Afghanistan we had doctors, engineers, lawyers coming up from the main school system of education. But from the last 30 years there is nothing at all.”

Numbers treble

Figures for how many Afghan Sikhs now live in the UK are not readily available, so the BBC commissioned the Office of National statistics to analyse the census.

Data shows over 10 years, between 2001 and 2011, the number of Afghan Sikhs almost trebled to just under 7,000. But this does not show how many live in the UK illegally. The temple vice-president in Southall believes the true figure is much higher.

So what is in store for those found at Tilbury now making asylum claims? The Home Office would not comment, but the BBC has discovered that the country guidance issued by the UK government has changed. This is the advice that immigration officials use to assess asylum claims.

In 2012 it said Sikhs did not face widespread discrimination and even if they did, relocating to Kabul, where there was a larger community, might solve the problem. The most recent report says they do face widespread discrimination and it is pessimistic that the community in Kabul is large enough to give them security.

The Tilbury refugees are now having regular interviews with border officials and it is unlikely they will get a quick answer. But what is likely is that other Afghan Sikhs will try to get to the UK by any means possible.

Bhajan Singh Kapoor whose charity supports people seeking asylum, said: “I think there will be more and more people trying to get into safe countries. I think Britain will be the first choice if they can make it.”

 

Source: The Times of India

I P Singh, TNN | Sep 3, 2014, 03.12AM IST

NAWANSHAHR (PUNJAB): Seven Hindu and Sikh Afghan refugees staying in India on long-term visas for nearly 20 years have been arrested by the Punjab police over the past two months for procuring Indian passports on fake credentials. They were arrested from different airports in the country just before they were to catch flights to various European destinations.

Police investigation have so far traced 135 such passports issued to Afghan Hindus and Sikhs from the regional passport office (RPO) in Jalandhar and issued lookout notices for all of them. Police officials told TOI that 12 such Afghan citizens might already have left the country.

Five accused — including a police head constable, now under suspension — who had helped the Afghans get the passports have told the police they were not aware that the applicants were from Afghanistan. Police are looking for a Delhi-based travel agent, P K Jain, and an Afghan man, Manmeet Singh, who were instrumental in getting the Afghan residents in touch with Jalandhar-based middlemen. The middlemen arranged the forged residential proofs and other documents.

The arrested Afghan citizens also disclosed during questioning that after reaching Europe, they were planning to use their Afghan citizenship to seek political asylum. They were to claim they had somehow escaped from the Taliban’s clutches.

On July 4 four members of a Hindu family were arrested from the Bangalore airport when they were about to fly to France. The head of the family, Tek Chand — whose wife, son and daughter-in-law were also arrested — said his five brothers were already settled in France and neighbouring countries, and he wanted to join them.

Three other Afghan residents, including a young woman Mandeep Kaur, were Sikhs and were held from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai airports.

“We could not apply for visa at Indian embassies on Afghan documents, so we resorted to faking documents,” an arrested Afghan citizen told investigators.

Nawanshahr DSP Sarabjit Singh, who is investigating the case, said all the applicants used forged documents to show themselves as citizens of Nawanshahr. None of them used his or her original name. “Three of the accused completed their education in Delhi and none could suspect they were not Indian citizens,” he said.

The cops are looking for those Afghans whose police verification reports were prepared by head constable Tirath Ram, who is charged with being part of a gang of six other accused. The gang is believed to have been active since 2012, until RPO officials smelt a rat in February when 10 passports sent through registered post were returned by the postal department since they could not be delivered.

Police investigations revealed Tirath Ram was taking Rs 20,000 for each police verification report for a passport. Three postmen, who are also believed to have been involved in the fraud, have been arrested. A Delhi-based agent apparently used to charge Rs 1 lakh from each applicant.

 

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