Indian detainees at Sheridan cite political persecution by Modi govt | punjab | punjabis abroad | Hindustan Times
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Indian detainees at Sheridan cite political persecution by Modi govt

The detainees, mostly Sikhs, were interviewed to ascertain whether they suffered persecution or fear due to their race, religion, nationality, affiliation to a particular social group and political opinion.

punjab Updated: Jul 25, 2018 15:03 IST
Hitender Rao
Hitender Rao
Hindustan Times, San Francisco
Sheridan,Sheridan Federal detention centre,Oregon
The Sheridan Federal detention centre in Oregon.

Asylum seekers from India, detained at the Sheridan Federal detention centre in Oregon in the United States have cited political persecution by the BJP-led government at the Centre in their plea before officials who interviewed them last week.

The detainees, mostly Sikhs, were interviewed to ascertain whether they suffered persecution or fear due to their race, religion, nationality, affiliation to a particular social group and political opinion.

Attorneys representing the Indian detainees in Sheridan said that many Indians interviewed by the San Francisco asylum office, which is administratively controlled by the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), told the asylum officials during the telephonic interviews that “they were being persecuted because of their political opinion and affiliations”.

What asylum officers want to know
  • What happened or do you fear will happen if you are sent back to your country?
  • Who harmed you or do you fear will harm you? Are they part of a group? How do you know them?
  • Why did they specifically harm or threaten you? Why would they harm you instead of another person?
  • Did you go to the police? If so, what happened? If not, why?
  • Is it possible to be safe in another part of your country? Why or why not?

Victoria Muirhead, development director at Innovation Law Lab, which is providing pro bono legal assistance and support to the detainees, said that about 42 detainees, including several Indians, Nepalese and Mexicans were interviewed between July 17 and 20. There are about 120 asylum detainees, including 52 Indians, at the Sheridan detention facility.

Lawyers representing the Indian detainees said a common theme that emerged from the credible fear interview was “political persecution” which also has a religious component.

“The Indian detainees told asylum officials that the ruling party in their country wanted them to conform to a particular ideology. And they were being persecuted for their political beliefs and affiliations since they followed a different political ideology,” said a lawyer.

Some detainees from Nepal said they were persecuted by the Maoists in their country.

SOME INDIANS CLEAR INTERVIEWS

“We have already started to receive positive results for the credible fear interviews that have taken place so far. The positive results are proof that the individuals detained in Sheridan are bona fide refugees. They have come to the United States seeking refuge, and have instead been placed in punitive conditions. A positive fear finding is an important first step in the asylum process. Once a credible fear determination has been made, the government no longer has grounds to immediately initiate deportation proceedings. An individual becomes eligible to continue the asylum process here in the United States and eventually have a full hearing before a judge,” Muirhead said.

The Innovation Law Lab is also preparing to initiate the process of requesting release for the detainees. Sources said that about 20 detainees, which also included Indians, have cleared the credible fear interview.