What to do with ‘illegal immigrants’ after they serve their sentence?

In the absence of repatriation treaty with Bangladesh, officials are clueless about the status of illegal immigrants, who are declared so by courts, once they served their sentence.
Illegal iimigrants
Representational image    

The inability to deport illegal immigrants who have served their sentence in prison, is proving to be a major challenge for authorities. There are reports coming from Bengaluru that although the police have begun their crackdown, they have not been able to bring this whole exercise to culmination. What to do with illegal immigrants once they have served their sentence under the Foreigners Act, 1946 as amended in 2004?

The officials are left in a conundrum as the number of persons being booked under the Foreigners Act is increasing andin the absence of a formal repatriation treaty with Bangladesh, in a few years there will be hordes of illegal immigrants who will have served their sentence and would not know what lies for them in the future, in absence of proper legislation or procedure. Bangladesh has washed its hands off the situation saying that NRC is India’s internal problem. In the absence of any clear direction, while the executive is pre-occupied with implementation of an incomprehensive law, the lacuna in the legislation has not yet been addressed by the government, despite of many people, including the judiciary in Assam having raised this question, “What will you do with these illegal immigrants?”

Recently, a 27 year old woman was declared to be an illegal immigrant and was convicted under section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 to 5 years in prison. The Sessions court also ruled that she should be deported across the border on completion of her sentence. Where will the law stand at the end of 5 years, nobody knows. The chances of Bangladesh changing their stand on this issue also seems like a long shot. In the absence of order of deportation from the Foreign Regional Registration Office (FRRO), the officials on ground are clueless on how to deal with the situation that will soon befall them.

Sabrang India had recently reported that a 37 year old woman was arrested for overstaying on her student visa she was issued in 2003. She had all valid and legitimate identity documents,and only during her passport verification did the fact come to light and she was booked under the Foreigners Act. She will also undergo trial and if convicted, will be sentenced to imprisonment after which the need to deport her will arise too!

At present the government seems to be shooting arrows in the air, not knowing what the ultimate target is; or it does have an ulterior motive which it will fulfil furtively eventually. It is hard to say at this moment which one is it, but we need a plan right now, and the government has none.


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