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Bengal gave nod for 2 detention camps on MHA model, now Mamata says no

New Delhi: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may have taken a stand against detention centres in her state, but her government approved the building of at least two detention camps earlier this year on the lines of the manual drawn up by the Union home ministry. The state government has officially confirmed plans for two sites – New Town, Kolkata and Bongaon in North 24 Parganas to set up detention centres for convicted foreign nationals awaiting deportation.

The state government, however, clarified that these detention centres have nothing to do with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), arguing that it was only complying with Supreme Court directives. According to the 2017 prison statistics compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, West Bengal had the highest number of foreign nationals in jails among 29 States and 7 Union territories. Of 4,487 foreign nationals lodged in various prisons, 2,316 were recorded to be in the state’s prisons, according to NCRB statistics.

The state government jail manual says, “Superintendent of the jail shall send a report of admission of foreign national together with a descriptive roll of the prisoner to the state government and copies thereof to the Inspector-General for intimation of the fact of imprisonment of the foreign national to the consular representative of his state.”

The central government in January issued a manual on Model Detention Centre to all states and Union Territories. The manual prescribes the amenities to be provided in the detention centres, including medical facilities. The details of the manual were first reported by ET on July 29. It states that illegal migrants or foreigners lodged in detention centres should not be segregated if they are members of the family and “all members should be housed in the same detention centre.” In the 11-page manual, the home ministry directed all states and UTs to set up at least “one detention camp in the city or district where major immigration check post is located”.

According to the ministry, states do not need specific approvals from the ministry to set up detention or holding centres. “Every detention centre shall have a cell which will provide help to the detainee foreigners for contacting the concerned mission/embassy/consulate or their family through proper procedure,” the ministry stated. The poor condition of detention centres, particularly in Assam, has been a cause of concern.

A public interest litigation filed by activist Harsh Mander before the SC first highlighted the issue. It was further observed that the detention centres in most states were being run from prison. “MHA directed the states to set up detention centres or camps outside the jail premises. The naming of these centres can be decided by the state government,” said the manual.

Source: Economic Times