Children of foreigners languishing in Assam jails

As Assam struggle with the diplomatic quagmire to deport the declared “illegal migrants,” at least 29 children, aged between two to 17 years are languishing with their mothers in six detention centres inside jails. According to official documents, eight of them are Rohingiya Muslims while the rest are Bangladeshis. Reuters file photo for representation only

Eleven-year-old Sajida (name changed) has spent more than a year inside western Assam’s Kokrajhar jail despite not being a juvenile.

She walked into the jail with her mother, Minara Khatoon, who was declared a foreigner by a tribunal but Assam government has not been able to trace her address in Bangladesh for her deportation.

Minara, a widow and her daughter was taken into custody from Lathigram village in South Assam’s Cachar district as soon as the tribunal issued its order against her. Since her relatives refused to take care of her daughter, Sajida had no option but to walk into the jail with her mother.

As Assam struggle with the diplomatic quagmire to deport the declared “illegal migrants,” at least 29 children, aged between two to 17 years are languishing with their mothers in six detention centres inside jails. According to official documents, eight of them are Rohingiya Muslims while the rest are Bangladeshis.

This despite a provision in Assam jail manual that no children above six years can be kept inside jails.

According to information tabled in the state Assembly, six are lodged inside the detention centre in Jorhat jail, 11 in Kokrajhar and 12 in Tezpur jail. There are 276 women foreigners lodged in such detention centres at present, it said.

“Most of these children are languishing in jails with their widowed mothers. Their relatives refused to keep them and there are no shelter homes for such children outside our jails. Since deportation of the declared foreigners is a complicated and time-consuming affair, we had requested the state government to set up a shelter home outside jails to take care of such children and their education. But we have not seen any step so far,” former chairperson of Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Runumi Gogoi told DH on Tuesday.

“Illegal migration,” mainly from neighbouring Bangladesh is a long problem in Assam and according to the state government, of the 1,037,64 persons, who were declared foreigners by tribunals or a court, only 29, 829 could be deported since 1985. Nearly 1,000 declared foreigners are now lodged in detention centres at present.

“Non-separation from parents is every child's right but it is worrying to think about children languishing in jails for years, along with their parents. It amounts to the deprivation of their liberty and would have a negative impact on the survival and development of a child. India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Children and hence the responsibility to take care of such children lies with the state,” said Miguel Das Queah, a child rights activist here. The state government, however, said such children have been admitted in government schools near the jails.
 

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Children of foreigners languishing in Assam jails

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