Kerala CM forgets 2019 promise, govt calls for proposal to build detention centre for ‘foreign nationals’

In 2019, when Centre wrote to states to set up detention centres to restrict movement of illegal immigrants/foreign nationals awaiting deportation, Kerala CM had said no such facilities will be set up

Kerala CM forgets 2019 promise, govt calls for proposal to build detention centre for ‘foreign nationals’

Ashlin Mathew

The Left Democratic Front (LDF)’s Social Justice Department has issued a circular calling for a proposal to build a detention centre for ‘foreign nationals’ in either Thiruvananthapuram or Thrissur. This is in contravention to what Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had promised in 2019.

The order released by the Kerala Social Justice Department states that the detention centre is for foreign nationals who have entered the country without a passport or visa or have continued to stay after the validity of their visa and passport. It will also house foreign nationals who have been arrested in criminal cases and have completed their jail term and are waiting to be deported.

The circular notes that such persons will be kept under watch at the detention centre. The circular adds that in the state, the detention centre will be built with the assistance of willing organisations. It requests ‘willing organisations’ to submit proposals with budget details to the Social Justice department in Thiruvananthapuram.

The detention centre, where at least 10 poeople can be incarcerated, will be built in Thiruvananthapuram or Thrissur.

In addition to basic facilities such as meals and service of social workers, the detention centre will have CCTV cameras, barbed wires and fencing around the property, light around the compound and fire extinguishers. The government underscores that they will provide police protection in the detention centre.

This state government’s move is reportedly based on a high court instruction in an appeal by two Nigerian nationals who were arrested and housed in the Viyyur central prison in a case registered by the Guruvayur police. There were reports that there is also a citizen of Myanmar who needs to be housed. It is not immediately clear whether the Myanmar citizen is a Muslim.

Kerala CM forgets 2019 promise, govt calls for proposal to build detention centre for ‘foreign nationals’

The Kerala High Court, in December 2020, had observed that foreign nationals were lodged inside prisons indefinitely and the government had done nothing to implement its directive of 2015. On April 9, the same bench of Justice PV Kunhikrishnan had issued another order saying that no policy decision is necessary to find a temporary detention centre and instructed the authorities to earmark one within 30 days.

In 2019, the BJP-led Central government had written to states and Union territories on “setting up of detention/holding centres in various states/UTs for restricting the movement of illegal immigrants/foreign nationals awaiting deportation” as a part of the Union government’s intention to implement the National Citizenship Register (NRC).

In January 2019, the Centre had also prepared a model detention centre manual and circulated it to all states.

After the controversy broke in 2019, the Kerala CM issued a statement insisting that it was not planning to set up detention centres in the state to house illegal immigrants. "The present government has also instructed the authorities concerned to stop all works started by the previous government since 2012 in connection with the detention centres, in view of the present situation," the 2019 statement said.

In December 2019, the setting up of detention centers in Kerala was seen as a pro-CAA move by both LDF and UDF.

The CMO statement added that on February 29, 2016, the Social Justice Department’s director was asked to submit a recommendation for the setting up of the detention centre. Additionally, a committee of district officers of the social justice department and district police superintendent was also set up. The CM underscored that despite regular reminders from the Union Home Ministry, no minister in the LDF government has either seen or taken a decision on the detention centre.

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