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Since 2009, States asked by MHA to set up detention centres

Assam has six detention centres inDibrugarh, Goalpara, Jorhat, Kokrajhar, Silchar and Tezpur.  

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been instructing the State governments since 2009 to set up detention centres to “restrict the movements of foreign nationals staying illegally so that they are physically available at all times for expeditious repatriation,” according to the government response in the Lok Sabha.

As per Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai’s reply in the House on July 2, such instructions were issued to all the States and Union Territories from time to time in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2018.

Mr. Rai also informed the House that a detailed manual on ‘model detention centres’ was circulated to all the States on January 9.

Addressing a rally in Delhi on December 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “these rumours of detention centres being spread by the Congress and Urban Naxals are completely false...the Muslims of the country are neither being sent to detention centres nor is there a detention centre in India, this is a white lie.”

Harsh Mander’s petition

The 11-page manual was prepared in the aftermath of a petition filed by activist Harsh Mander on September 20, 2018 in the Supreme Court, highlighting the plight of families languishing in six detention centres in Assam where members of the families who were declared foreigners were put in camps separated from each other. It was argued that the State does not make any distinction between “jails and detention centres” and thus between “detainees and ordinary inmates” and the camps were being governed as per the Assam jail manual.

When this lacunae was highlighted in the court, the MHA informed the court on November 5, 2018 that it was framing guidelines for keeping illegal foreign nationals in detention centres across the country. Following this, the detailed manual was circulated among the States.

The manual comprising 39 points says that the States require “no specific approval” from the MHA to set up “detention centres /holding centres/ camps.” It lays down that these centres should be set up outside the jail premises and their numbers and size should be decided by the States keeping in view the actual number of foreigners to be housed as well as the progress in deportation proceedings.

Assam has six detention centres, highest among the States. Ten more are expected to come up in the near future in the wake of the final publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on August 31 that excluded 19 lakh out of 3.29 crore applicants. Those excluded can move the Foreigners Tribunals (FTs) and subsequently courts. The State government has asked for a fresh NRC and Home Minister Amit Shah also informed Parliament on November 20 that the process would be repeated in the State along with a country-wide exercise.

The FTs, unique to Assam since 1985, declared 1,29,009 people as “foreigners” till October this year through ex parte (one-sided) proceedings. A total of 4,68,905 matters were referred to the FTs in this period. Most declared foreigners ended up in the six camps. To handle the influx of applications following the NRC, the MHA sanctioned 1,000 additional tribunals. Presently, there are 100 FTs in Assam, of which 64 were established in 2014.

On May 30, the MHA amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, which empowers the district magistrates in all the States and Union Territories to set up tribunals. Earlier, powers to constitute such tribunals vested only with the Central government. The MHA later issued a clarification on June 11 that “Since the FTs have been established only in Assam, and in no other State of the country, this amendment is going to be relevant only to Assam at present.”

Delhi also has three detention centres to lodge illegal immigrants or foreigners who have completed their jail sentence but their deportation process has not been initiated or completed. These camps are also set up to accommodate foreign convicts in criminal cases who have completed their jail terms and await deportation as they cannot be kept in jails.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 7:50:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/since-2009-states-asked-by-mha-to-set-up-detention-centres/article30382427.ece

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