Freedom is just another word. It doesn’t mean anything.
At least that’s what the 12 African nationals, including five women, languishing in Delhi’s detention centres, think now.
These 12 people, arrested on charges of possessing narcotics, were either acquitted or discharged after completing their jail sentences.
"We’ve been dumped here. This is against our right to life and liberty. The authorities say they want to appeal against our acquittal. Trapped here, we can’t even hire a lawyer," says Jimmy Oteba (34), a native of Uganda, who has spent the last four months at the Lampur Detention Centre. Oteba, like the other 11, was arrested on charges of possessing heroin at the IGI Airport in October 2005.
"I was incarcerated for four years. The court acquitted me in November 2009. Since then, I have been lodged here," he said. He said he came to India on a business visa five years ago.
Vincent Nwachukwu (37), another detainee at the centre, alleged that the custom authorities implicated him in a false case when he was returning to Nigeria. "They claimed to have recovered narcotics from my luggage. The luggage wasn’t even mine. The court acquitted me in October last year for lack of evidence," he said.
"The authorities have impounded our passports and the money our families sent us to buy air tickets has not been released to us," he said.
The African detainees have approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the President of India for speedy release.
"We have been living here in inhuman conditions. We can’t go out despite being released from jail. This is no worse than prison," said another detainee Joshua Mensah (34).
Mensah added that five African women too were arrested on similar charges and have been detained at the Nari Niketan in Hari Nagar for the past several months.
When contacted a senior officer said the Africans have been detained as there are legal proceedings pending against them.