Centre funding country’s biggest foreigner detention centre in Assam
30,000 Sq Ft Facility Not Linked To NRC, Will Be Operational Next Year
Guwahati: The country’s biggest detention centre to house foreign convicts and people declared “foreigners” by tribunals, coming up in Assam’s Goalpara district, will be operational early next year.
Sanctioned by the Union home ministry in June last year, Assam’s first detention centre is being constructed on 20 bighas (28,800 sq ft) of land at Matia, about 124km west of Guwahati, at an estimated cost of Rs 46.5 crore. The entire expense on the facility, with a capacity to house 3,000 detainees, is being borne by the Centre. Incidentally, Goa opened a detention centre for foreigners in May this year.
In 2014, the Centre had asked all states to set up at least one ‘detention centre/holding centre/camps’ to detain “illegal immigrants and foreign nationals awaiting deportation/or repatriation after completion of sentence due to non-confirmation of nationality”. The objective was to separate declared foreigners from criminals in jails.
Recently, the Supreme Court set the detention period of foreigners at 3 years. After completion of this period, those in detention would be eligible for bail after furnishing a surety bond of Rs 1 lakh each from two Indian citizens along with their proposed residential address and biometric details.
Assam home commissioner and secretary, Ashutosh Agnihotri, said the Goalpara detention centre cannot be linked to the outcome of the final NRC. “The camp will become operational early next year. But don’t link it with NRC. In case of (dropouts), it has been already clarified (dropouts are not foreigners and can appeal in foreigners’ tribunals). We do not know what policy comes after that,” he added.
He further said, “The Matia camp is only for those detainees who have been declared foreigners and are in the existing six detention camps (which are attached to state’s six central jails), besides foreign convicts. Once it’s ready, we’ll shift these people here.”
There are 1,136 detainees in the six temporary detention camps located in the jails in Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Jorhat, Tezpur, Dibrugarh and Silchar. Last month, nine detainees, who completed three years in detention, were released on bail as per SC guidelines. Further, 25 others have died in detention due to health issues.
The Centre has also formulated a manual under which the detention centre will have a help desk for the detainees to contact mission, embassy or consulate officials or their families, a skills development centre and a creche for children, but all within the premises with high-level security.
Construction for the Rs 47 crore project is on in full swing at Matia in Goalpara district