The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has told the Gujarat High Court that it will make every effort to find the whereabouts of nine persons from Gujarat who went missing while trying to enter the United States illegally. The court was hearing a writ petition filed by the relatives of three of the missing persons, seeking a direction to the Indian authorities to trace them.
The missing persons — seven men and two women — had the last contact with their relatives in Gujarat on February 3, 2023, after reaching Dominican Republic.
The high court had asked the MEA to file a reply.
In an affidavit filed in the court of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha Mayee on Monday, the MEA said it was taking the matter seriously and following it up with the concerned Indian Embassies and High Commissions.
India’s ambassador to Dominican Republic forwarded the MEA a French document of the Department of International Security of Guadeloupe (a French overseas region and island group in the southern Caribbean Sea) dated May 29, 2023, addressed to one of the missing Indians, the MEA said.
As per this document, Sudhirkumar Patel, one of the missing persons, arrived on the island on February 7, 2023.
The Ministry has sought confirmation of this note and sent instructions through the Government of France to the authorities in Guadeloupe seeking whereabouts of the nine missing Indian nationals, it said.
As per the affidavit, the Indian Embassy in France learnt about the incident on February 3, 2023, through an email from a lawyer who said they went missing while reportedly crossing over to Saint Martin (a French island) from the Island of Dominica in a sailboat.
The Embassy alerted the nearby Indian missions besides taking up the matter with the French authorities but failed to get any more information, the MEA told the high court.
In August, the Gujarat government informed the Embassy that the missing persons were detained in Guadeloupe. But the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through an email dated August 24, 2023, informed the Indian Embassy that currently there were no Indian nationals held at the French overseas administrative detention centre.
The Commissioner of Police of Guadeloupe also stated in an email that no trace of nine Indian citizens was found in Guadeloupe while authorities in Dominica also said they had no clue, stated the affidavit.
In July, relatives of two missing Indians had First Information Reports registered in Gujarat regarding their `detention in a foreign country’.
Newspaper reports suggested they were detained in one of the overseas territory regions of France, the writ petition, filed through advocate Yatin Oza, said.
The next hearing in the case is slated to take place after two weeks.