Homeless Punjabis in Southall

In late 2009, we wrote a post about the growing number of homeless Punjabis and Sikhs living in Southall.  Almost three years later, the situation in Southall continues to concern us.  A recent article from the BBC discusses the plight of these young men who seek voluntarily deportation back to India but who, without documents, are unable to navigate an unforgiving bureaucratic situation.

Jagdeesh pulls away a piece of cardboard revealing a tiny hole in a concrete wall. He invites me to climb through, declaring: “This is my home, come in.”

“I was told that life was good here. It’s not just me, other boys came for work,” he says. “You can see what state we’re in, there’s no work, no government help.” Jagdeesh has cut himself off from his family, saying he is ashamed of his failure to find work and would rather they thought he was dead than knew he was living in filth. “They sold land and took out loans to get me out of India. What can I say to my family back home? The money we’ve invested is lost,” he says. [link]

According to figures from the UK Home Office, voluntary departures have risen steadily over the past few years, from 335 in 2005 to 15,537 in 2010.  While many of these cases have been logged with the UK Border Agency, it seems that the Indian High Commission is dragging its feet on processing the cases. According to the article, the UK Border Agency admits that establishing the identity of illegal immigrants in order to issue them with emergency travel documentation is a “complex” process and that the time it takes to process these individuals varies by case.  One individual, a man in his 30s, has been waiting for three years.

Many of these individuals abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the situation. Their thoughts often turn to suicide.  Their only support system is each other and the majority of them haven’t even told their families, back in Punjab, about their broken dreams.  It’s a difficult situation for these men – their lack of options in Punjab drives them to seek opportunities abroad but this promise of prosperity is not always what it seems to be.

As our UK co-blogger, Naujawani Sardar, states, “There are many questions being asked about the problems facing masses of illegal Punjabi immigrants in West London, but the most important questions that will prevent this situation from reoccurring in the long-term are not being asked: Why do so many youth risk everything to leave The Punjab? What is being done to curtail the agents that are facilitating their travel? And, what repercussions do UK citizens face for exploiting illegal immigrants?”

The only question I would add is what role can or should the Gurdware play to address this situation?

Perhaps the only glimmer of hope in this situation is the aid that the Sikh Welfare Awareness Team (S.W.A.T.) continues to provide to these individuals who feel their home is neither Southall nor Punjab.  Below is a short film, made by S.W.A.T. to bring awareness to this issue.

YouTube Preview Image


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7 Responses to “Homeless Punjabis in Southall”

  1. Sundari says:

    According to this Sky News report, the Southall gurdwara and local sangat is providing meals and donations to these individuals: http://www.sikhnet.com/news/trapped-illegal-immigrants-sleep-streets

  2. Mr Singh says:

    Homeless work by ilford sangat

  3. Parvinder Singh says:

    My advice to my sikh brothers and sisters – please don't be fooled by the agents. Invest in yourself , develop yourself and migrate only if there is an opportunity. also never be an illegal migrant.

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