Assam seeks 10 more detention centres to hold ‘illegal foreigners’
The Assam government is preparing to construct ten more detention centres in anticipation of the possible requirement to house large number of illegal foreigners as the deadline for the National Register of Citizens finalisation draws close, a senior official said on Friday.
“We are sending a detailed project report for ten more detention centres to the Centre shortly for approval,” said a top state government official familiar with the development. While the state has six detention centres which run out of district jails, the first exclusive detention centre is under construction in Goalpara in lower Assam at cost of around Rs 460 million and a capacity to hold 3000 persons.
This official said that the sites for the new detention centres have been identified but is awaiting final approval. “The number of declared foreigners will go up after the NRC,” he added. “While there is still no clarity or policy on what is to be done with those who are out of NRC and eventually declared foreigners; this step is to maintain our level of readiness,” the official explained the move.
The NRC list is due on July 31, 2019, the deadline set by the Supreme Court. Those whose names do not figure in the list have the option of approaching the foreigners tribunals to prove their Indian citizenship or the tribunal could declare them a foreigner.
The state government is in the process of establishing 200 more foreigners tribunals by September 1 and another 200 in the subsequent three months to deal with NRC appeals and references (the state government will refer those who do not appeal on their own).
The NRC draft published on July 30, 2018, excluded around 4 million people of which around 3.6 million filed claims for inclusion.
Declared foreigners in detention yet to be released more than a month after the SC order
More than a month after the Supreme Court ordered conditional release of declared foreigners who have completed three years in detention, they are yet to be set free as the bureaucracy works to finalise the modalities for their release.
An official of the Assam Police’s Border Organisation said they are yet to receive any instructions from the state government for the release. According to this official, there are around 200 persons in detention who have spent three years or more and would be eligible for release.
Ashustosh Agnihotri, the Commissioner and Secretary, Home and Political Department said, “the state government has been advised that an order for the release has to come from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). We are sending it to MHA.”
On May 10, hearing a public interest litigation on condition of detention centres, the Supreme Court ordered release of detenues who had completed three years on the condition of execution of a bond with two sureties of Rs 1 lakh each and a verifiable address.
The Supreme Court also ordered that biometric information including all ten fingerprints and photos shall be captured and kept in a secured database and the released person must report to the police station every week.
While more than 1,00,000 persons have been declared foreigners by the tribunals, only four have been repatriated since 2013 and more than 900 are in detention and most of the remaining are absconding, according to the state government.
In an affidavit to the Supreme Court earlier, the state government had listed reasons for problems in repatriation and said, “mostly such proposals (of repatriation) are pending in respect of declared foreigners… that have refused to divulge their biographic details, particularly the country of their origin and the address in the country of their origin.”