To avoid detection, they wrap themselves in thick, black plastic
bags and are drugged. Sometimes, they suffocate to death. One
tried to jump on the roof of the chunnel train from a bridge in
France, missed the fast moving train and died.
Less than half
of them survive the long road trip. If discovered during the
trip, they are imprisoned and deported.
When they flew to Britain for illegal entry, they were dubbed
as ‘kabuttars’ or pigeons.
If they go by containers, they are called ‘faujis’ or
soldiers battling against impossible odds.
After reaching Britain, their ordeal takes a new twist as
they have no legal papers to work, no home, not even proper
So now they are called ‘illegals’ living in fields, under
motorway bridges, in four-wheeler bins and even in cemeteries in
Southall, west London, eating from soup kitchens or Sikh temples
or gurudwaras and looking for work for a pittance.
If they are caught by the authorities, they are deported and
their employer fined 10,000 pounds per illegal worker.
"After reporting on ‘faujis’ for many years, my late father,
Hussan Chand Puri, encouraged me to write a book to record their
problems so that the Indian children and their parents do not
have to go through this suffering," says Shamlal.
"These desperate young me want to get away from Punjab at any
"Jobless, they just want to start a new life no matter what
"Unfortunately, their worst enemies are fellow British
Indians who employ, rather exploit, them with far less than
legal wages as they risk a huge fine if they get caught.
Many small businesses have gone bankrupt by employing these
faujis," he said.
"Interviewing them is tough as they don’t trust anyone.
They sound an alarm and threaten violence whenever a stranger
comes to where they are sleeping overnight in the open fields
even during winter or under a bridge.
Desperate, homeless, jobless and homeless in cities, they
sleep on the streets, in abandoned homes, garbage bins or a
I joined a charity to reach them and spent time under the
bridge and in the cemetery in freezing winter listening to their
One of them is always alert as a lookout for a police raid
during the night.
"Depressed and jobless in UK, they seek solace with drugs.
To survive the cold, they cover their bodies with oil. If
they do not get meals from a soup kitchen they survive on tins
of dog food scrounged from the bins or they go hungry," he said.
"The illegals do not want to return to India because of the
shame they would bring to their families and the huge loans, up
to five million rupees, taken to pay the human traffickers and