The BJP led NDA government has gone ahead to speed up its agenda of deporting back lakhs of illegally staying Bangladeshi nationals by asking every state to build detention centres.
In a recent consultation meeting of the nodal from all the states, the union home ministry also tasked them to identify and mark Bangladeshis who have been overstaying in their area.
There are two categories of illegal migrants – those who overstay on a valid visa and those who migrate illegally across the 4096.7-km international border. Last year 5234 Bangladeshi nationals who overstayed on their visas, were deported. While the number of migrants who cross over illegally is unknown, the government estimates put it around 1.5 crore.
The issue was also broached by minister for external affairs, Sushma Swaraj during her recent goodwill visit to Bangladesh.
While the action plan against illegally staying Bangladeshis dates back to 2005, very few states and UTs such as like Assam have constructed 3 such centres, Delhi 2 and West Bengal and Gujarat one each so far.
The BJP owes its recent success in the North East, especially in Assam where it got 7 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats, to its stiff anti-illegal Bangladeshi plank and is now eyeing for a much stronger repeat performance in the assembly elections that are due in early 2016. The illegal Bangladeshi migrants issue has become big in the North East after BJP made it an electoral agenda in 2014 general elections.
“We had a meeting this month with state government officials and it was agreed that every state should have a detention centre. The states will spend on setting up the centres,” a senior home ministry official said.
The decision to revive the 2005 action plan includes setting up of task forces for identification of illegal migrants and setting up of Detention Centres by the state government to keep the illegal migrants till they are actually deported.
“Only a handful of states have detention centres and now we want all states to have at least one such centre,” said the official.
The action plan also included a monitoring cell by government of national capital territory (NCT) of Delhi to coordinate the functioning of the task forces, and a monitoring authority in MHA to review the progress of deportation, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said in Parliament last week.
Detention centres are arrangements made by states in order to house illegal migrants arrested and jailed under the Foreigners Act for illegally entering India. When an illegal migrant is arrested and has completed his sentence there is usually a time gap till the person is actually deported with assistance of Bangladesh authorities. The detention centres have basic facilities and are not like a jail.
“As per the direction of the Delhi High Court and the Apex Court, Government had prepared and finalized an action plan for detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in 2005,” said Rijiju while answering a question from Biju Janata Dal MP in Rajya Sabha, Kalpataru Das.
Das had asked if Delhi High Court and Supreme Court had asked the Delhi Administration to make arrangements for deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. The Modi government which is known to adopt a hard line on illegal Bangladeshi migrants, has gone a step ahead by expanding the plan for all states.
The Foreigners Act empowers state and union territory administrations to identify and deport illegally staying Bangladeshi nationals.
Number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh is “clandestine” and actual figures are not known, Rijiju said. However, no less than 6000 Bangladeshi nationals are “pushed across” the international border every year, according to sources here. BSF is in charge of guarding the border with Bangladesh.