There are more than 20 sea immigration posts functioning in violation of the Passport Act, which is a potential security hazard and may lead to immigration clearance of passengers and crews who are a security risk, the Union Home Ministry has informed a parliamentary panel. It said that “undesirable elements” could sneak in or flee the country through the unauthorised immigration points.
The observations were mentioned in the 242nd Demands for Grant report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that was tabled in the Rajya Sabha on March 17.
Smuggling of drugs through sea ports has been flagged by intelligence agencies in the past few years. In 2021, around 2,988 kg of heroin brought into the country through Mundra Port, Gujarat was intercepted by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials.
The panel sought to know about the bottlenecks in the effective functioning of seaport immigration check posts (ICPs). The Ministry replied that at present, India has 31 authorised seaport ICPs and out of them, 10 ICPs are under the direct control and management of the Bureau of Immigration (BoI), MHA. The remaining ICPs are controlled by State police agencies.
The BOI ensures that uniform immigration processes are followed at all the designated ICPs especially those 10 which are operated by them.
“However, there are more than 20 non-notified marine immigration check posts that are functioning technically in violation of The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the rules made there under. In such locations, the local police try to accommodate the crew of the ship by signing on/embarkation or signing off/disembarkation with their limited offline information and virtually no physical infrastructure. This is a potential security hazard. It may lead to immigration clearance of passengers/crews, who are a security risk,” the report said.
The report stated that immigration functions cannot be carried out at these seaports since neither have they been notified as ICP nor have they the requisite technological and physical infrastructure to carry out a secure and safe immigration process. They are offline and not connected to the centralised immigration system which is served by the backend data centre located in Delhi. “Therefore, there is a possibility of undesirable elements sneaking into India or fleeing from India through such unauthorised immigration points,” it said.
MHA has been taking up the matter including with State Governments and local port authorities to ensure that immigration at all seaports becomes not only business-friendly but also safe and secure for the country.
Based on the inputs received from BOI, it has been found that physical infrastructure at most of the 31 sea ICPs needs improvement and at some ports, the foreign crews disembarking from the ships have to be taken outside the docks’ secured areas without immigration clearance.
“In some other ports, the immigration authorities have been provided tents, shamiyanas or temporary set up which creates difficulties for the installation of technical gadgets and smooth running of the online immigration control system. Such make-shift counters are usually not connected to the central data center; therefore, the implementation of an e-landing card scheme becomes difficultat these immigration check posts,” the report said.
The report added that the Central government wants to promote cruise tourism and MHA further informed that unfortunately, many local sea port authorities have not been able to provide such standard facilities like space and physical infrastructure for the installation of technical gadgets and counters of immigration authorities.