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Modi govt sets norms for ‘model’ detention camps to ensure dignity of ‘illegal foreigners’

The ‘Model Detention Centre/Holding Centre/Camp Manual’ prepared by the Modi government was circulated to all states and UTs in January 2019.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has framed a ‘Model Detention Centre/Holding Centre/Camp Manual’ to specify the amenities and facilities that should be made available to “illegal foreigners” held in detention centres, the Home Ministry has said.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs has prepared a ‘Model Detention Centre/Holding Centre/Camp Manual’, which was circulated to all states and UTs on 9.1.2019,” the ministry said in response to a question in Parliament Tuesday. “The model manual specifies the amenities to be provided in such detention centres/holding centres/camps.”

The poor living conditions at detention centres have become a matter of debate, with activist Harsh Mander even filing a petition in the Supreme Court on the plight of inmates at such facilities in Assam.

In April this year, the Supreme Court provided for the conditional release of those “illegal foreigners” who have spent over three years in Assam’s detention centres.

The guidelines

As reported by ThePrint in April, the conditions at Assam’s detention centres involve as many as 40-45 inmates living in one room with one shared toilet, questionable hygiene, measly meals and poor medical facilities.

According to the Home Ministry’s reply, the fresh guidelines seek to address these issues, stating that detention centres should be “designed to provide all necessary facilities for the inmates to maintain standard of living in consonance with human dignity”.

“It lays down that basic amenities like electricity, drinking water, hygiene, accommodation with beds, sufficient toilets with running water, communication facilities, provision for kitchen etc shall be provided,” the ministry has said.

The government has also called for “special attention” to women as well as nursing mothers, besides children. To protect children, the ministry has said they should be provided educational facilities in nearby schools.

Six detention centres in Assam

Assam, a state that has long grappled with the issue of “outsiders” and is currently in the process of updating the National Register of Citizens to identify “foreigners”, has six detention centres.

The centres — in Goalpara, Silchar, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Jorhat and Dibrugarh — are all located inside prisons and meant to accommodate those declared “foreigners” by the Foreigners Tribunal.

According to government data up to 31 January this year, presented in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, there are as many as 938 detainees lodged in these centres. Of the 938, 823 have been declared “foreigners”, while 115 “convicts” await deportation.

These “convicts” are people found guilty under the Passport Act or a section of the Indian Penal Code. Their country of origin is known and, hence, specified.

Also read: Lawyers alarmed by Supreme Court move to allow expansion of Assam’s foreigners’ tribunals


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