Over 100 Indian youths - detained by US authorities for allegedly entering the country illegally to seek asylum - are on a hunger strike.
The men, all hailing from Punjab, have been languishing in El Paso Processing Centre in Texas in miserable condition since last year, a non-profit group that has been providing the detainees with legal support told PTI in an email.
North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) said it has urged Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) authorities to immediately release the youths, currently on hunger strike.
In a statement, the group urged ICE Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas S Winkowski to release the men, said Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director, NAPA.
Chahal said the ICE is legally bound to release detainees as soon as they proved their true identities and reasons for seeking asylum in the US. There is no evidence against any of the detainees held since last year, he said.
Two hunger strikers were recently hospitalised and many others are in danger, Chahal said, adding that NAPA has also learnt that ICE was on the verge of force-feeding striking detainees - a practice that the United Nations has termed as "torture".
These youths have been detained indefinitely despite proving their identities and certifying their reasons for entering the US, he said.
"Some detainees had been transferred to a barrack called 'LO-AHA', a room 5x10 feet consisting of toilet and bed where normally criminal-type prisoners are detained," Chahal added.
The group said it is also seeking action against travel and immigration agents who lured the youths with dreams of settling in the US.
NAPA urged NRI Commission in Punjab to seek action against those undercover travel agents who are responsible for exploiting the youths and taking from them lakhs of rupees for sending them illegally to foreign countries, Chahal said.
NAPA also sought transfer of their cases from 5th circuit court to 9th circuit court to enable the relatives and friends to follow their cases easily, he said, adding that South Asian Bar Association has offered their services to help the detainees.
NAPA has also joined hands with the Sikh Coalition, a prominent Sikh welfare group, to get parole for all the detainees.