No Nationwide Data on Illegal Immigrants: Centre Tells SC

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More than 17,000 Bangladeshi immigrants who entered India and settled in Assam between January 1966 and March 25, 1971 were granted citizenship, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday, while stating that furnishing figures of illegal immigration across the country was not possible as their detection, detention and deportation was a “complex” process

The affidavit came in response to a set of queries by a five-judge Constitution bench on December 7 while hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of Citizenship Act. This provision was introduced in December 1985 — as part of the Assam Accord — to provide citizenship benefits to people from Bangladesh who entered India between January 1, 966 and March 25, 1971, and were ordinarily residing in Assam.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, while posting the matter for hearing on December 12, had directed the Centre to provide details on the number of foreigners detected during this period and those who actually benefited under this provision. The bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant, MM Sundresh, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, had expanded the scope of information further by seeking data on inflow of illegal immigrants after March 25, 1971 till date. It also sought information on steps taken to curb this problem by fencing the international border with Bangladesh.

The response filed by Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla on Monday informed the court that during the relevant period (January 1966 to March 25, 1971) a total of 32,381 people were detected as foreigners by foreigner tribunals, and 17,861 got citizenship after getting registered with FRRO as on October 31 this year.

On the illegal immigrant count across the country, the affidavit said, “Since entry of such foreign nationals into the country is clandestine and surreptitious, it is not possible to collect accurate data of such illegal migrants living in various parts of the country.” The response added: “The detection, detention and deportation of such illegally staying foreign nationals is a complex, ongoing process.”

On border fencing, the Centre told the court that of the 4096.7km border with Bangladesh in five states, the feasible area for fencing about 3,922km , of which over 81% fencing is complete.

In West Bengal, the Union home secretary said that Centre is facing challenges in tackling illegal immigration as out of the 2,216.7 km border, about 78% fencing has been done. The Centre cited the complex land acquisition policy in the state as a contributing factor to the delay.

West Bengal follows a far slower, more complex Direct Land Purchase Policy even for national security projects, said the affidavit. “Due to non-cooperation from state regarding resolving various issues of land acquisition, considerable delays have occurred in acquiring necessary land, thereby impeding timely completion of fencing in WB along Indo-Bangla border which is a vital national security project,” the affidavit said.

The affidavit also mentioned the status of existing foreigner tribunals (FTs) and cases pending before them. There are 100 FTs where 97,714 cases are pending as on October 31 while 8461 appeals against the tribunal orders are pending before the Gauhati high court, it said.

Last week, while hearing the matter, the court observed, “We cannot allow for an unlimited influx [of illegal immigrants]. The infrastructure, education, public hospitals here are limited…Irrespective of what happens on Section 6A, this is a constitutional court, and we want to know what is being done to address the problem of illegal immigration.”

Source: Hindustan Times