Assam must end human rights violations against persons declared foreigners by the Foreigners Tribunals and held in detention centers across the state, Amnesty India said in its new briefing “Between Fear and Hatred: Surviving Migration Detention in Assam”.
Detention of ‘irregular foreigners’ in detention centres within prisons, often indefinitely, has become routine in Assam. The briefing traces the history of the anti-foreigner agitation in Assam, the legal regime and processes for identifying, detaining and deporting ‘foreigners’, and the inhumane conditions in detention centres in Assam.
“The government of Assam should remember that the constitutional right to life and personal liberty is available to all persons, including foreigners. Detention must be an exception, and used only as a last resort, while dealing with irregular migrants” said Akar Patel of Amnety India.
He further said that their study found a number of persons who have been in detention centres for months and even years, without any access to parole. They are separated from their families and have limited contact with the outside world. Other than severely restricting movement and access to livelihood, indefinite detention has devastating effects on the mental health of those detained and their families.
Amnesty India found that there is no statutory limit on the period for which individuals declared as foreigners can be detained; individuals declared as foreigners are kept inside criminal prisons along with convicts and undertrial prisoners, circumstances and conditions of detention cause harm to individuals’ mental and physical health and foreigners Tribunals, which adjudicate citizenship cases, follow flawed processes to identify irregular foreigners.
As on 25 September 2018, 1,037 persons declared foreigners were being detained in detention centres in Assam. Many do not know what crimes have led to their incarceration. Most of them do not know what the future holds. They have no certainty about whether they will ever be released, and if so, when.
“In fact, 30% of the 1,037 detainees in detention centres as on 25 September 2018 were declared foreigners in proceedings they were not even aware of. There is pressure on Tribunals to dispose off a large number of cases and that is disturbing. The authorities have totally failed to consider non-custodial alternatives to detention,” said Leah Verghese, an Amnesty India researcher who worked on the briefing.