The Union home affairs ministry has issued a model detention centre manual to Maharashtra and the state government is in the process of taking possession of a temporary detention centre while the process of identifying land for a permanent detention centre is on, a senior bureaucrat told The Times of India. “So far, no illegal migrant has been detained in Maharashtra,” he told TOI.
Raising a question on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the Lok Sabha, Shiv Sena minister Arvind Sawant asked if the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had issued a model detention centre manual for states and asked them to set up detention centers. He also sought information on the number of operational detention centers, their capacity, how many were under construction and the number of individuals detained there.
In a written reply to the question, junior home minister Nityanad Rai said that a manual had been prepared keeping the directions of the Supreme Court in mind and had been circulated to all state governments. He said that the manual covered legal provisions with regards to detention and deportation of a foreign national, categories of persons who may be detained and amenities to be provided at those centers. In his reply he said, “Detention centers are set up by the state governments as per their requirement to detain illegal immigrants, who have completed their sentence pending deportation to their native country.”
He also said that the details of number of detention centres set up by the State Governments/ Union Territory Administrations along with their capacity and number of foreign nationals detained in these detention centres are not centrally maintained.
At present there are six detention camps in Assam and 28 detainees have lost their lives in these camps or the hospitals they were referred to. There is a new stand-alone detention camp ebing built in Goalpara and more have been planned across Silchar and Tezpur. Detention camps are being built in Maharashtra in Navi Mumbai, Neelmangala in Bengaluru, Karnataka and in West Bengal.
Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) reported that in July 16, in response to questions raised by TN Prathapan, the MHA elaborated on the provisions of the ‘Model’ detention center manual saying, “The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a ‘Model Detention Centre/Holding Centre/Camp Manual’ for implementation and compliance. The Model Detention Centre Manual, inter-alia, prescribes the amenities to be provided in the Detention Centres to maintain standards of living in consonance with human dignity including electricity with generator, drinking water, hygiene, accommodation with beds, sufficient toilets/baths with provisions of running water, communication and medical facilities, provisions for kitchen and recreational facilities.”
However reports of deprivation in these detention camps have been rampant – inmates not even getting the allotted amount of food to sustain good health and the answers by the MHA raise pertinent questions that have been raised by CJP – an organization that has tirelessly been working for those left out of the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
1) What does the MHA mean when it says ‘sufficient’ toilets/baths? For example, how many toilets and bathrooms are available per 100 people? Also, who determines if that is sufficient?
2) What exactly are the provisions for communication? What kind of communication facilities are offered to inmates and how often can they use these facilities?
3) What exactly are the recreational facilities?
4) If families are to be housed in the same detention camps, how often are they allowed to interact, given segregation of inmates based on gender?
5) Additionally, there has been talk of ensuring that children at such facilities do not suffer for the want of education. Will schools be set up inside such facilities or will the children be ferried to and from schools located outside the detention camps?
6) As far as medical facilities go, are they restricted to just the physical health of detainees or will mental health professionals also be deployed to help detainees cope with the phycological burden of captivity, something that often leads inmates to engage in self harm?
7) Will such detainees be permitted to work and earn a living in these detention camps, or will they like their counterparts in Assam, be denied this right which incidentally is available to convicted criminals?
8) Women and men are to be lodged in separate accommodations, but what are the provisions with respect to transgender inmates, given how most transgender people are abandoned at birth and rarely have any documents?
9) What happens in repatriation effort with the alleged ‘country of origin’ of the detainee fall through? Will such people be detained indefinitely? Is this not a violation of basic human rights and multiple international conventions on the subject?
10) New detention camps have already been built in Maharashtra and Karnataka. Two camps have been planned in West Bengal. How many more such facilities are planned across India?
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