Assam plans three more detention centres for illegal immigrants to prevent them from vanishing before deportation

There will be three more detention centres in Assam for declared foreign nationals till they are deported to their countries of origin.

The new plan envisages standalone centres for foreign nationals, unlike the six cells that already exist in the state attached to the district jails. While the Centre has already approved the proposal for Goalpara, the process for selecting the sites for the other two in Silchar and Tezpur has started.

Assam plans three more detention centres for illegal immigrants to prevent them from vanishing before deportation

Representational image. Reuters

Silchar deputy commissioner S Lakshmanan said that some plots would be inspected for the detention centre within a short span.

In response to a PIL filed by Anil Chandra Dey at Gauhati High Court, the state government said that the revenue department has been asked to allot government land in the three districts with the capacity to detain at least a thousand foreign nationals at each centre.

“In this regard, discussion has also been held with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and a proposal has been submitted to the Government of India for construction of a detention centre at Goalpara,” said the affidavit which was also given to BJP legislator Dilip Paul in the Assembly following his submission of an unstarred question.

Around 800 foreign nationals are currently detained at the six centres attached to jails across the state where separate provisions have also been made for women and children. But they have fuelled a huge controversy with human rights activists complaining about their deplorable conditions. Last August, the Supreme Court had asked the government to furnish a report on the condition of these centres in Assam. The Centre replied saying that guidelines were being framed for keeping foreign nationals in detention centres across the country.

Many detainees have also been languishing for years at the centres since deportation is a tedious and unpredictable process. There is no agreement with Bangladesh on repatriation of its citizens who have illegally entered India. Moreover, Bangladesh has never accepted that its citizens have been sneaking into and settling in different parts of India since the past many decades. Last year, its information minister Hasanul Haq Inu told this correspondent that people who were forced to cross over to India following the genocide in 1971 have returned to their homes.

The green signal for repatriation comes from Dhaka only after the addresses of the detainees in the jails and detention centres have been verified and confirmed. As per government records, 7,056 persons have been sent back to Bangladesh between 2013-17.

A senior government official said, “If illegal migrants are not confined to the detention centres, they will vanish and will never be found again. The alternative to these centres is immediate deportation which is not possible or the issue of work permits which is yet to be given shape.” He is echoed by some leaders of civil society groups in the vanguard of the movement for the identification and expulsion of foreign nationals from Assam.

The government concern stems from the millions of Bangladeshi nationals who have become untraceable in the past several years. On 17 November, 2016, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju informed Rajya Sabha in a written statement that around 2 crore of illegal Bangladeshi migrants have settled in India which marks an increase of 67 percent from the figures laid down in Parliament by the UPA regime in 2004 but later withdrawn.

The author is a senior journalist in Guwahati and author of Rendezvous With Rebels: Journey to Meet India’s Most Wanted Men and Lens and the Guerrilla: Insurgency in India’s Northeast.

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Updated Date: Oct 05, 2018 17:13:23 IST

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