The first batch of at least 68 “foreigners” were moved to a newly built “detention centre” — now officially known as ‘transit camp’ — at Goalpara in Assam on Friday, senior government officials told The Indian Express.
This marks the beginning of a proposed phase-wise transfer of “foreigners” to the Matia Transit Camp, 150 km from Guwahati.The camp is the state’s first centre to exclusively house “illegal foreigners”, built as per guidelines laid down by the Centre. Until now, the detainees have been lodged in six “detention centres” across Assam — all inside jails.Government sources said those who have been moved to the centre include both people declared “foreigners” by Foreigner Tribunals in Assam as well as those convicted by judicial courts for violating visa provisions.“Sixty-eight people, which includes 45 men, 21 women and two children, have been moved. They were detected as foreign nationals,” said Barnali Sharma, Inspector General of Prisons, Assam.Of the existing six ‘detention centres’, two are in district jails (Kokrajhar and Goalpara) and four in central jails (Tezpur, Silchar, Dibrugarh and Jorhat). According to state government data, as of September 2022, the six centres together held 195 detainees. In 2021, in a “a bid to humanise detention centres”, the Assam government changed the nomenclature to “Transit Camp for detention purposeThe Matia Transit Camp, nestled between farmlands and forest, occupies 20 bighas, and was built on a budget of over Rs 46 crore, with a capacity to house “up to 3,000 illegal foreigners”.“The infrastructure is ready and a skeleton staff is in place. For those people who are moving, they will have whatever facility is needed… the district and police administration provided escorts for the movement,” Sharma (IG, Prisons) told The Indian Express.The move to transfer the detainees follows an order by the Gauhati High Court in November last year directing the government to make the Matia camp operational. The court order was in response to a batch of habeas corpus petitions, which challenged the detention of convicted and declared foreign nationals inside prisons/jails of Assam.