Bengal to Set Up Detention Centres for Arrested Foreigners

Labourers work at a school building inside the premises of an under-construction detention centre for illegal immigrants at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 1, 2019. Photo: Reuters/Anuwar Hazarika

Kolkata: The West Bengal government will soon set up two detention centres to house foreign nationals arrested on various criminal charges, and this move has “absolutely no connection” with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a state minister said on Saturday.

The Mamata Banerjee-led state government has already finalised a piece of land in New Town area, West Bengal Correctional Services Minister Ujjwal Biswas told PTI.

The process of scouting for land in Bongaon in North 24 Parganas district for the second detention centre is also underway, Biswas said.

He said an existing government building in Bongaon could be converted as the second camp to temporarily house the foreign nationals, till the piece of land is identified.

“These detention camps are being constructed adhering to Supreme Court directives, according to which foreign nationals under trial and those convicted should not be kept with local inmates,” he said.

“This has absolutely no connection with the NRC. Please don’t link it to NRC,” the minister added.

Biswas also cited a 2014 directive of the central government, which asked all states to set up at least one detention centre for illegal immigrants and foreign nationals awaiting deportation after completion of their sentence.

Most of these foreign nationals belong to African countries, sources in the correctional department said.

“Till now, the foreign nationals arrested for criminal activities are housed along with local inmates. But, we have observed that this creates problems due to different cultures and languages, and the situation becomes quite difficult for us to handle,” Biswas said.

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As many as 110 foreign nationals are currently under trial and have been kept with local inmates at different correctional homes in the state, the sources said.

The two detention centres would be able to accommodate around 200 inmates, they said.

The BJP has been demanding the implementation of NRC in Bengal, too, to drive out Bangladeshi Muslims for the sake of the country’s internal security.

The proposed NRC implementation in the state has turned into a flash point with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee vehemently opposing the move. It had created a panic, claiming 11 lives in West Bengal.

The fear among people in the state was trigerred by the omission of about 19.6 lakh names from the final NRC list in Assam.

Assam has six detention centres inside district jails in Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Silchar for persons declared foreigners by the Foreigners Tribunals.

“There will be no Assam-like detention camps in Bengal because there is going to be no NRC in this state,” Banerjee had recently said.