Immigration, illegal, into India
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NEW DELHI: Detention centres — meant to hold foreigners either staying illegally in the country or who have completed sentence for an offence committed in India, while their nationality gets confirmed and travel documents issued by their home country — have been in existence in various states for past few decades, in accordance with instructions first issued by the home ministry in July 1998, government sources told TOI on Thursday.
The detention centres, sources said, are in line with provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners Order, 1948, with even the Supreme Court having taken cognisance. They “ensure physical availability of illegally staying foreigners at all times for expeditious deportation, as soon as travel documents are ready,” an officer said, adding that these centres were not connected to NRC. Instructions asking states/UTs to set up detention/holding centres were issued by home ministry in 1998 in pursuance of the central government’s powers under the Foreigners Act, 1946 to impose curbs on the movements of a foreigner and require him/her to reside in a particular place, as well as under Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 to direct removal of any person from India who has entered without valid passport or other travel documents.
These powers have further been delegated to the state governments under Article 258(1) of the Constitution and to UT administrations under Article 239, and may be exercised through the foreigners regional registration office , or FROs, a charge held by district superintendent of police.
Sources said Assam government had been earmarking portions of jails as detention centres for the last few decades. Detention centres/holding centres/camps for foreign nationals are in existence in Assam (in district jails of Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Silchar); NCT of Delhi (Sewa Sadan, Lampur), Mahila Sadan (for women) & Shazadabagh (for Bangladeshi nationals); Punjab (Central Jail, Amritsar); Rajasthan (on jail premises in Alwar); West Bengal (correctional home); Gujarat (Bhuj); and Tamil Nadu.
MHA also approved construction of a detention centre in Matia, Assam, which can accommodate 3,000 inmates. In an order dated February 28, 2012, the Supreme Court observed that the foreign nationals who have completed their sentence should be released from jail immediately and kept in appropriate place with restricted movements pending their deportation, and that such places must have basic facilities.
Foreigners confined in the detention centres are not subjected to strict prison regimes.
2018: Centre advises states on detention units
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphatic denial of “rumours” that Muslims in the country would be sent to detention centres in the wake of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being seen as a much-needed intervention to clear the air on a facility provided for under the law to lodge those who have been adjudged to be illegal aliens after a well-laid out legal process.
Detention centres — which state governments and Union Territories are empowered to set up on their own, with no involvement of the Centre — are merely meant to house illegal immigrants after they are declared ‘foreigners’ by tribunals/courts, or foreigners who have served their sentence for an offence in India and are awaiting deportation to their home country.
While addressing a rally on Sunday, the PM had said his government was not building detention centres for Muslims who are Indian citizens.
While the central government is vested with powers to detain and deport a foreign national staying illegally in the country under Sections 3(2)(e) and 3(2)(c) of the Foreigners Act, 1946, these powers have also been extended to to state governments and UT administrations under Articles 258(1) and 239(1) of the Constitution respectively.
To ensure that illegal immigrants do not ‘vanish’ after being declared by tribunals/ courts as ‘foreigners’, the central government has instructed states from time to time — in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2018 — to hold them in ‘detention centres’ until deportation. As per information shared by the home ministry with LS on November 19, detention centres exist only in Assam and no other state/UT. There were 988 foreigners lodged in six detention centres across Assam as on November 22. TNN