THE North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) in a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has demanded an immediate investigation in the death of two Jalandhar (Punjab) youth who are feared to be drowned in Italy.
Seeking an immediate arrest of those travel agents who are responsible for these two Punjabi youth, Ravinder Singh and Gurpreet Singh from Sanora village in Jalandhar, who are reported to have died after the boat they were in capsized while on its way from Libya to Italy, Satnam Singh Chahal, Executive Director of NAPA, said that they wrote several letter to Punjab Government to set up a corporation on the pattern of the state of Maharashtra to monitor Punjabi youths being sent abroad legally, but until now there is no mechanism in Punjab to ensure youths are sent abroad legally.
Chahal seeks immediate arrest of those travel agents who sent these two youth without any confirmation of employment abroad. It is really unfortunate that these kinds of incidents are happening in one corner or the other of the world where Punjabi youths are becoming the victims of human traffic smugglers but nothing is being done to deal with human traffic smugglers. If the Punjab government will not take this issue very seriously, then another Malta boat tragedy can occur, Chahal warned.
ACCORDING to the Tribune newspaper of Chandigarh, Karnail Singh, the father of victim Gurpreet, said, “We received a call from Dalbir Kaur of Moga, who said her husband Cheter Singh too was on the boat along with the boys.” Cheter was reportedly rescued by the by the Italian army. But the fate of the two youth is still not known.
Jagdish Singh, the father of the other victim, said he had received a call from his son a day before the incident that he was leaving for Italy, and that he would not be able to call up home for the next 12 days.
“He was very upset for the last four months as he had not been able to earn money due to tension in Libya. A day before the incident, he informed us that he along with many other Punjabi boys was boarding a ship for Italy. I haven’t heard from him ever since,” said Jagdish.
The Tribune reported that the families said that though their travel agent had promised them a visa for Dubai, he could only send them to strife-torn Libya after charging them Rs 150,000 each. (CDN$1 = about Rs.55).
MEANWHILE, NAPA said it has sent letters to several U.S. senators and congressmen to take all possible steps to release 93 Punjabi youths who are still in different jails and detention centers in the U.S. Chahal said that in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by NAPA earlier this year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent statistics that showed that the 93 Punjabis were in custody as of June 23. Out of these, nine detainees are convicted criminals and 84 detainees are non-criminal immigration violators.
Chahal said the figures were based on the basis of Singh and Kaur last names. He said that NAPA is assuming that the actual number is twice as high. He said that although the statistics showed that there were 19 Punjabi detainees at the El Paso processing centre, they had learned that there were actually 33 Punjabis there.
Chahal said: “The North American Punjabi Association, being mindful of its obligation to the Punjabi community, will also extend all possible help to secure their release on parole or on bond by providing legal assistance and moral support to the best of our ability and resources. But we will not extend any kind of help to those Punjabi detainees who are convicted criminals.” He said they were trying to track down these detainees.