British Asians killed for their passports

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CONCERN is mounting over attacks on British Asians travelling overseas who are being killed or injured by criminals who want to steal their passports.

Immigration racketeers in Turkey are believed to be targeting British and United States Asians because their passports are the most highly prized for use in smuggling people from the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian sub-continent into Europe.

Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, is to seek an emergency Commons debate after discovering that 174 British citizens have gone missing in Turkey in the last 10 years.

He is seeking information on cases such as that of Edgar Fernandes, who visited Turkey last Easter. Mr Fernandes, of Hackney, east London, disappeared almost on arrival. He was found three weeks later, dead in the Bosphorous. His family, which originates from Goa, believe he was killed for his passport. Relatives who travelled to Istanbul to search for him, learnt that the passport of a British Asian can fetch $10,000 (pounds 6,250).

Mr Fernandes' brother Tony said he had no doubts as to why he was killed. "At first we thought it was for money but we soon realised it was the passport," he said. "British passports are highly sought after."

Gulzar Qureshi, 68, a retired London GP, was luckier. He is recovering in hospital with a fractured skull after visiting Istanbul's historic mosques. From his father's bedside, his son Israr said he believed he had been drugged and attacked in an attempted theft of his passport. "He says he was taken in by a kind person who offered him a cup of tea and that was the last thing he remembers. People ... say that North African gangs are operating here."

The Immigration and Nationality Department has admitted that the new softback passport is too easy to forge. It is being redesigned so the photograph and personal details of the holder are on an inside page.