As the ongoing debate over the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register has extended to the matter of detention centres, yesterday West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said that no detention centre will be built in the state. Detention centres are meant to keep foreign nationals arrested for illegally entering and staying in the country, along with other crimes, pending their deportation to their native countries.
While speaking at an event in Naihati in North 24 Pargama district, the CM said that she would not allow detention centres to be built in West Bengal till she is alive. She said, “they are saying detention camps will be set up here. But who is in power here? I am ready to give my life but I will not allow BJP to set up detention camps in Bengal, never! Even if I have to die for it, I won’t allow.” Mamata Banerjee added, “No one has to leave the country or the state. There won’t be any detention centre in Bengal.”
Although the WB CM has said there would not be any detention centre in the state, the fact is that the state government has already decided to set up two detention centres. In November this year, it was reported that the West Bengal government had decided to build two detention centres to keep foreign nationals arrested on various charges. Although the govt had said that these centres are not linked to NRC, and they were being built to keep foreigners arrested for various crimes. The government has also identified two places, while one centre is to be built at the New Town area near the Salt Lake City, the other centre will be in Bongaon in North 24 Parganas district.
The detention centres are being built as per Supreme Court directives. The apex court had ruled that arrested foreign nationals, both under trial and convicted, should not be kept in regular jails with local inmates, and they should be kept in separate detention centres or camps.
In West Bengal, 250 foreign nationals were arrested last year, and 140 of them were sent back, while the remaining 110 persons are lodged in regular jails for various crimes like drug trafficking, cybercrime, overstaying in India etc. Apart from that, WB also have the highest number of foreigners kept in jails for illegally entering the country. According to the 2017 prison statistics compiled by National Crime Records Bureau, 2,316 foreigners were lodged in the jails of West Bengal.
The provision for detention centres is there in the Foreigners Act, 1946 and Foreigners Order 1948, along with the order of Supreme Court. But by opposing detention centres, Mamata Banerjee and other opposition leaders are disrespecting the law and the apex court. Moreover, without dedicated detention centres for foreign nationals, the foreigners arrested for various reasons will have to be kept in regular jails, which are already overcrowded.