Over 50 Indian asylum seekers, many of them Sikhs and Christians reportedly fleeing religious persecution, have been detained at a federal prison in the coastal state of Oregon. In many cases, they’ve been separated from their spouses and children.
As the Donald Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” approach—anyone entering the US illegally can be criminally prosecuted—takes effect, the fate of thousands of asylum-seekers hangs fire.
Some 7,400 Indians sought asylum in the US in 2017, the United Nations’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said in its latest Global Trends report. Of the 168 countries whose nationals seek refuge in the US, India was among the only eight with over 5,000 requests
Indians are also the fastest-growing illegal immigrant group in the country, nearing half-a-million in 2014. Some are students who overstayed their visas, others are skilled job seekers trying to remain in a high-wage market. A section was trafficked, making its way through South America to cross the US-Mexico border.
Since last year, the US government has deported almost 500 such Indians, with 460 being sent home in 2017 and another 33 this year.
The US isn’t the only dream destination for Indians. From New Zealand to Latvia, asylum-seekers from the country are spread far and wide. By the end of 2017, the number of asylum cases around the world filed by those of Indian origin has ballooned to over 40,000—an eight-fold increase from 2012.