Creation of a greater number of detention centres and use of biometrics to identify and deport foreigners who overstay are some of the measures that were discussed at the ongoing annual police conference in Delhi chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah.
The police officials also sought clarity on government’s policy when it came to the Rohingya, or refugees recognised by the United Nations as India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
On January 20, the first day of the 57th Director-Generals of Police and Inspectors-General of Police Conference organised by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), a session was dedicated on concerted strategy to identify and deport overstaying foreigners in India.
According to a government official, per the immigration database, the number of foreigners who overstayed in the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 stood at 54,576, 40,239 and 25,143 respectively.
One of the challenges pointed out by officials was alleged misuse of tourist visa and student visa and it was asserted that biometrics may be used extensively to detect such offenders.
Tourist visas that allow a stay of upto 180 days in India do not require reporting with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO). The only way such foreigners can be tracked is through C-Forms that are required to be recorded by hotel and lodges while providing accommodation. An official said that many a times it is ineffective as many rented accommodations or home stays do not comply with the requirement.
A Karnataka police official suggested according a unique number to foreigners arriving in India that needs to be quoted for availing any kind of services such as mobile phone connection, accommodation, travel, among others.
The Conference also deliberated on fixing accountability of service providers hotels, educational institutes and hospitals for not reporting presence of foreigners. Fast track trial of court cases and use of plea bargaining in petty cases was also suggested for early deportation. It was also suggested to take up the issue of non-cooperation by certain countries that causes delay in deportation, with the Ministry of External Affairs. “Misuse of Indian identity documents like passports, Aadhaar cards in warding off the deportation” was also deliberated.
The challneges posed by the unfenced border at Nepal and Myanmar was also discussed. It was said that the free movement regime gives rise to security issues and other than smuggling of various items along the Nepal border, the main issues are demographic changes and activities of foreign agencies. It was said that foreign agencies were seeking to influence public opinion and government policy against India’s interests in the border areas. “ Allied to this, a cause of concern is the illegal movement of third country nationals taking advantage of the special border regime,” a government official said.
Along the Myanmar border, a free movement regime operates for residents residing in a 16 km belt in both the countries. “The refugee influx particularly into Mizoram after the coup in Myanmar two years ago is also of concern,” the official said.