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Assam: ‘Detention Centre’ for ‘Foreigners’ to Be Called ‘Transit Camps’

As many as 29 'declared foreigners' have reportedly died during their detention since 2009.

Published
India
2 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>File photo of Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma.</p></div>
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The Assam government issued a notification on Tuesday, 17 August, announcing a change in the nomenclature of detention centres. The notification said that detention centres, which house 'foreigners' in Assam, will now be called 'Transit camps' for “detention purpose.”

The notification changing the nomenclature was signed by the principal secretary of Assam’s home and political department, Niraj Verma, in partial modification of an earlier notification dated 17 June 2009.

Assam currently has six detention centres within district jails at Dibrugarh, Goalpara, Jorhat, Kokrajhar, Silchar and Tezpur, The Indian Express reported.

Meanwhile, a detention centre with a capacity to house as many as 3,000 “illegal foreigners” is under construction at Agia in Goalpara district.

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181 Detainees in the Six Centres

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had told the Assembly in July that there are 181 detainees in the six centres. Of which 61 are “declared foreigners” and 120 are “convicted foreigners”, that is, a foreign national who entered India “illegally”, the report added. The former means a person who was once considered an Indian citizen, but later declared a foreigner by a Foreigners’ Tribunal.

As per official data, 2,551 people have been sent to detention camps from 29 December 2009 to 30 June 2021 after they were declared non-citizens by various Foreigners’ Tribunals, The Hindu reported.

The Supreme Court ordered on 10 May 2019 that declared foreigners could be released after three years in detention. A year later, in April 2020, another order reduced the detention period to two years. Following the two orders, over 750 people were consequently released.

Though many have been granted bail over the years, as many as 29 declared foreigners have died during their detention since 2009.

In the Assembly, CM Sarma had said that 1,36,173 cases are pending in the Foreigners’ Tribunals, while 2,98,471 cases have been disposed of so far, The Indian Express added.

A total of 321 foreigners have been repatriated by the state government so far, he added. However, according to a reply by the Union Home Ministry in the Lok Sabha on 10 December 2019, only four “declared foreigners” have been deported to Bangladesh to date.

Sarma also said that there are nine convicted women foreigners along with 22 kids presently lodged in three centres. Out of 22 children, two are above 14 years of age while the rest are below the age of 14 years.

Inhuman Conditions

Meanwhile, inhuman conditions at the detention centres have repeatedly been highlighted by several human rights activists and civil society groups. Moreover, the inmates are made to be confined in the same shared spaces with other prisoners, accused or convicted in all kinds of crime, including murder, the report added.

Taking the conditions into account, the Gauhati High Court, while hearing a batch of petitions, asked the Assam government in October 2020 to submit an action taken report on steps taken to set up detention centres outside jail premises.

(With inputs from The Indian Express and The Hindu)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Edited By :Saundarya Talwar
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