NEW DELHI: Touts operating in the border areas of West Bengal, who earlier facilitated the entry of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants into India after charging hefty sums from them, are now taking money to push back the same Bangladeshi nationals into the latter’s own country.

This phenomenon has started taking place after the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) became a law in India in 2019. Official sources present along the border areas, including Border Security Force personnel, confirmed to The Sunday Guardian that reverse migration has started and that money is exchanging hands for the purpose.

The Sunday Guardian spoke to several individuals who are familiar with this development, which is more visible in the district of North 24 Parganas, which shares a riverine border with Bangladesh. It is also one of the most porous borders that India has.

“Many people are coming to us to return to Bangladesh following the passage of the CAA as they are worried that they will be identified and prosecuted. Many of them are the same individuals we had brought in, in the past few years,” a facilitator engaged in this “business” for the past several years, told The Sunday Guardian.

The touts said that since these illegal immigrants did not have passports and valid Indian visas, they were not being able to go back using legal channels, due to which they were using the services of the touts. One of the touts said that he was inundated with many requests from people who wanted to go back. These illegal immigrants have been involved in menial jobs, working as labourers and household workers.

Many of them, who are going back, also have Aadhaar cards and Indian ration cards that they had procured when they entered India. However, in most cases, these documents have been made by the touts and are not genuine.

Earlier, these touts would charge Rs 500-600 per person to bring them to India through these porous borders. Now, they are charging around Rs 800-1,000 to send them back.

The Sunday Guardian also interacted with residents of border villages who also confirmed that “reverse migration” is happening. “These movements are taking place mostly at night. A boat from the Indian side, carrying Bangladeshi nationals, reaches the middle of the Ichhamati river where a boat ferried by individuals from the other side is ready and waiting. Once the two boats are side by side, the Bangladeshi nationals jump into the other boat. The touts from both sides manage this,” a resident near the Ghojadanga border in Basirhat town said.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, a BSF official from the South-Bengal frontier said that following the enactment of CAA, reverse migration has increased. “Some 100-150 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are moving to Bangladesh on a regular basis. We have information that they are mostly using the borders of North 24 Parganas which includes Angrail, Ghojadanga, Gede and other such porous border areas.”

The Sunday Guardian had done a report last month titled “Several illegal Bangladeshis returning home”, outlining how the reverse migration of illegal immigrants had started following the passage of the CAA, at a time when a huge misinformation and disinformation campaign against the Act has been launched by forces that are against India.