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Oregon Sikh detainees’ turbans taken away, says advocacy group

As a result of the intervention of the Innovation Law Lab, the condition of these inmates have improved and they are being allowed to make calls both domestic and internationally.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2018 11:47 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Astoria (Oregon)
Oregon Sikh detainees,Sikhs,punjabis abroad
The situation is worse for Sikh inmates as their turbans have been taken away in the jail.(HT File)

Over 50 illegal Indian immigrants, mostly Sikhs, seeking asylum in the US, are being treated like criminals in a federal prison in Oregon where they have been detained for the past several weeks now, volunteers from the legal advocacy groups have alleged.

“It’s heartbreaking when you go in there and you see the young kids like the ages are close to starting from 18 onwards, 22 to 24 in those jumpsuits...and you wonder how they ended up being treated as criminals. They’ve not committed a crime, they have crossed the border and they have asked for a refugee or asylum and that is a law of this land,” Navneet Kaur, a community college professor, told PTI.

Over the past several weeks, Navneet has interacted with most of the 52 Indian inmates in the federal prison at Sheridan in Oregon. She has volunteered to work as a Punjabi translator for the non-profit legal firm Innovation Law lab, which is providing legal assistance to the illegal immigrants in jail.

“Right now, they are (in) a miserable (condition),” she said.

The situation is worse for Sikh inmates as their turbans have been taken away in the jail. “Their turbans have been taken away. In a country where everyone has right to practice their own religion these men there don’t have turbans to cover (their head). Not even a piece of cloth to cover their heads,” Navneet said.

During the last few days, the local community leaders have managed to give beanies to a few of the Sikh inmates so that they can cover their head.

“They are feeling very shocked. I don’t know if that means that, that people are going to say I would rather go home because they’re fleeing for their lives. I think that they’re all feeling, they’re probably all wondering like, is this worth it if I’m going to be treated this way,” Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, development director at the non-profit Innovation Law lab, said.

Some of the Indian asylum seekers have hired their own attorney. As a result of the intervention of the Innovation Law Lab, the condition of these inmates have improved and they are being allowed to make calls both domestic and internationally.

Innovation Law Lab has been sending its legal team of volunteers accompanied with translators like Navneet to the Sheridan jail on a daily basis.

First Published: Jul 16, 2018 11:20 IST