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Only 5.7% foreign prisoners in India received consular access, 65% are from Bangladesh: Report

By Our Representative
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in its new publication, ‘Strangers to Justice: A Report on Foreigners in Indian Prisons’, has regretted that only 5.7% of the total foreign prisoners -- i.e. 222 out of 3908 -- have received consular access. Prepared to understand issues of detention and repatriation of foreign nationals in Indian prisons, the report is based on Right to Information (RTI) replies from 26 states.
Shedding light on various problems that affect the lives of foreign nationals confined in prisons in India at every step of the criminal justice process, the report states that in the 26 states and Union territories that responded to the RTI plea, of the 3,908 foreign prisoners, 1,657 are undertrials, 1,382 are convicts and "an astonishing 869 await repatriation." West Bengal, it adds, alone confines 55% of foreign prisoners.
Pointing out that foreign prisoners are from 58 countries, the report says, 65% of them are from Bangladesh, and 522 prisoners are categorised as ‘persons whose nationality is not provided’, essentially meaning that they do not belong to any country.
It says, of the 1,657 undertrial prisoners, 38.5% (638) were charged under Foreigners Act/ Foreigners Registration or Passport Act alone, whereas those charged under other penal laws such as Indian Penal Code, The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 etc. were 444 and those charged with both offences were 361.
Other issues dealt with in the report include lack of intimation to consulate/diplomatic mission at arrest; lack of nationality verification process at the time of trial; lack of contact with family and friends; lack of provisions to meet special needs; delay in nationality verification; delay in obtaining emergency travel certificate; insufficient funds to support travel; and delay in logistical arrangements, approvals.

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