After a Supreme Court directive, these were repeated in March 2012.
New Delhi: The government has clarified that detention centres were established in different locations across the country with the cognisance of the Supreme Court and according to legal provisions. Sources said that such detention centres were in place over the last few years and were in no way connected to the National Register of Citizens exercise.
The main purpose of these centres is to detain all foreign nationals whose nationality has either not been verified or they are to be given travel documents by their country where they have to be deported.
Under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, the Centre can either restrict the movement of an individual suspected to be a foreigner or to detain a person. Even the home ministry had issued instructions in 1998 that suspected foreign nationals can be detained at such centres so that they can be deported once their travel documents were finalised. While clarifying this was not a new trend, sources said these instructions have been reiterated repeatedly on November 23, 2009, March 7, 2012, April 29, 2014, September 10, 2014 and September 7, 2018.
After a Supreme Court directive, these were repeated in March 2012. The court observed in 2012 that foreign nationals who had completed their sentences must be released immediately from jail and shifted to a place with restricted movements pending their deportation.
In another order on September 12, 2018, the Supreme Court, taking note of the home ministry instructions, had even advised states to establish such detention or holding centres to restrict the movements of illegal migrants or foreign nationals till they could be deported back to their own country. The court also noted the progress of work on the detention centre at Matia, Goalpara, in Assam that had been sanctioned by the Centre. The court felt the Assam government should have in place at the earliest.
At present, such detention centres for illegal foreign nationals have been constructed at Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Silchar in Assam; the Sewa Sadan Lampur and Mahila Sadan in New Delhi, in the central jail in Amritsar and Alwar jail in Rajasthan, at a correctional home in West Bengal as well as in Bhuj in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
Under existing legal provisions, foreign nationals staying illegally and facing court cases have to be deported to their own countries on completion of their sentences. Those foreigners who have valid passports can be sent back immediately, but in absence of any valid documents it becomes important to first verify their nationality, which is done by the relevant foreign mission in India through the external affairs ministry. Such foreigners can be deported only after their nationality is confirmed and they are issued proper travel documents by the foreign mission, which can be a time-consuming exercise.