Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Hundreds of “destitute” Indian students, unable to find part-time jobs because of recession, have been forced to scrounge for free food in gurdwaras at Southhall, a west London suburb, according to a BBC documentary.

Didar Singh Randhawa, president of the two Sri Guru Singh Sabha temples in the area, told the programme that many had no place to live and they either sought shelter in gurdwaras or slept rough.

“We see hundreds of students hanging out in the streets, but there could be thousands. Most come here every day for food. We are happy to provide food. But they also ask for accommodation. If they don’t find anything, we provide them with shelter for a day or two. We can’t keep them for longer. We are hearing that some are sleeping rough,” he said.

A student from rural Punjab, Nitin Walia (21), said: “I can’t afford to rent a room, I’m borrowing money from relatives at home just to buy my bus fare to college. I will be able to rent a room only if I find a job, if I can’t find one I will return to India. But that will bring great shame. I don’t know how I will return the money I have borrowed.”

No jobs

He has been living in a gurdwara since he arrived last week. He said he would have never come to Britain had he known he would not find a job to fund his studies. In the documentary, broadcast on Radio 5 Live, Nitin said he paid an agent nearly £600 to arrange for his visa and spent a further £2,480 on college fees and a flight. It took his parents’ entire life savings.

Tricked by agents

“I feel we have been tricked here. On the Internet, the college shows it’s a big campus, but when I got here I saw it’s just one small building with box rooms. We could find better colleges in India.”

Ravi Singh, who came here last month to do a business management course, also alleged that he was tricked by agents in India.

He said they assured him that he would get a part-time job. “But it’s totally different here, there are no jobs.”

Mr. Randhawa said: “Some of them are begging us to send them back but we haven’t got the resources.” The BBC said the students’ names had been changed to protect their identity.