Illegal migrants give tough time to security personnel on both sides of Indo-Bangladesh border
The increased movement of illegal migrants to Bangladesh is emerging as a new problem for the administration on both sides of India-Bangladesh border, officials have said.
In the past three weeks, around 300 illegal Bangladeshi migrants, who had allegedly crossed over from India, have been detained in Bangladesh and around 59 more are housed in a school in Howrah district of bordering West Bengal, they added.
The security personnel on both sides say there is an increase in the influx of people coming from India and trying to enter Bangladesh in the recent month or so in wake of the government announcing a National Register of Citizens (NCR).
NCR aims to identify illegal immigrants and send them back to their countries after a due legal process.
In March 2018, Kiren Rijiju, the Union minister of state for home affairs, told the Rajya Sabha that India has no repatriation treaty with Bangladesh but deportations take place only after the neighbouring country confirms nationality and issues travel documents.
As per the central government, the highest number of deportations took place in 2013 when 5234 people were sent back. In 2018, the number fell to 52.
“More than 200 of them were arrested in Moheshpur upazila (sub-district) alone. Those arrested for entering the country without a valid passport will have to prove their Bangladeshi citizenship in court,” said Sujan Sarkar, chief administrative officer of Moheshpur in Jhenidah district of Bangladesh.
Apart from them, close to 100 people, including 32 at Benapole in Jessore district of Bangladesh, were detained on November 24 and handed over to police.
Those caught in Benapole claimed before officials of the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) that they lived in Karnataka’s Bengaluru for several years and India’s Border Security Force (BSF) pushed them back into Bangladesh on the night before November 24.
“Push-back is absolutely illegal and those pushed back would land in jails in Bangladesh,” said Kiriti Roy, secretary of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, an organisation active in the West Bengal districts bordering Bangladesh.
SS Guleria, the deputy inspector general and spokesperson of BSF, South Bengal Frontier, denied the allegation. “BSF repatriates people of Bangladesh as per law of the land,” Guleria said.
He said West Bengal police did not hand them over any person for sending to Bangladesh.
The BSF has, however, refused to send back 59 alleged illegal migrants back to Bangladesh, who were arrested in Bengaluru, and handed over to West Bengal police in October.
The force’s officials said the immigrants cannot be handed over to BGB as they didn’t have valid travel documents.
According to human rights activists, these 59 Bangladeshi immigrants have been kept in a school building within Nischinda police station in Howrah district. A police officer at the station confirmed this but refused to give more details.
On the other hand, as the Bangladesh government suspects that there would be an increase in “push back” due to NRC and economic slowdown, it has increased vigil along with the orders.
ABA Shahidul Islam, the chairperson of Jadabpur union parishad of Moheshpur sub-district, said that ward-wise vigilance committees have been formed to report the presence of people coming back from India to local police.
A decision was taken at a meeting on November 21 between administrative officers, police, elected public representatives and the BGB, Islam said.
“It is quite possible that Muslim residents of India who are scared of losing citizenship because of the absence of the documents may try to enter our country and pass themselves as Bangladeshi nationals. After taking so many Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh is in no position to take more people coming in,” Islam said.
According to government records, West Bengal is the main state through which Bangladeshi nationals illegally enter India and vice-versa.
Between 2014 and 2017, West Bengal accounted for 6,402 of the total 10,460 cases registered in India for illegal entry to the country, according to the data provided by National Crime Records Bureau.
Of the total 1,403 Bangladeshi convicts in India’s jails, as of 2017, as many as 1,284 were lodged in jails of West Bengal, according to the publication Prison Statistics India.
The illegal immigration into India is a major political issue in India with ruling Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah during 2019 Lok Sabha elections saying that all “infiltrators” would be tracked and sent back.
For this to happen, the Union home ministry has made changes in the rules under the Foreigners Tribunal Act streamlining the process for a speedy trial. It has also asked the state governments to open new foreigner detention centres and one of such home is coming up near Bengaluru and another near Mumbai in Maharashtra.
Amit Shah told the Lok Sabha in August that since illegal migrants enter the country in a clandestine and surreptitious manner, it is not possible to have an accurate estimate of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants living in the country.