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Assam detention centres for foreigners renamed ‘transit camps’

August 19, 2021 01:03 am | Updated 01:03 am IST - GUWAHATI

Assam’s detention centres for foreigners and those declared such by specific tribunals have been renamed as transit camps.

The State currently has six detention centres within as many central jails at Dibrugarh, Goalpara, Jorhat, Kokrajhar, Silchar and Tezpur. A stand-alone detention centre with a capacity to house 3,000 foreigners is under construction at Agia in Goalpara district.

Notification

A notification issued by Niraj Verma, Principal Secretary of the State’s Home and Political Department, said “the nomenclature of detention centre is changed to ‘Transit Camp’ for detention purpose” in partial modification of a June 2009 notification. The 12-year-old notification pertained to the setting up of the detention centres.

On July 19, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had told the State Assembly that the detention centres have 181 inmates, 61 of whom are declared foreign nationals and 121 convicted foreign nationals awaiting deportation. Two of these centres house 22 children along with their “foreigner” mothers.

Official data say 2,551 people were sent to the detention camps from December 29, 2009 to June 30, 2021 after they were declared non-citizens by various Foreigners’ Tribunals. The first detention camp inmate was Krishna Biswas of Goalpara district, he said.

The data also revealed 29 declared foreigners died during their detention since 2009, while many were granted bail over the years.

Following the Supreme Court’s May 10, 2019 order seeking the release of declared foreigners after three years in detention, 273 people were released. Similarly, 481 others were released after another Supreme Court order on April 13, 2020 reduced the detention period to two years.

Assam police’s border wing is tasked with detecting foreigners or “illegal immigrants”. The people they suspect to be non-citizens are served notice to appear before a Foreigners’ Tribunal and submit relevant documents to be either established as citizens or marked foreigners for detention and deportation.

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