India builds first detention center for ‘stateless citizens’

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An outer wall of an under-construction detention centre for illegal immigrants is pictured at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Labourers work at a construction site of a detention centre for illegal immigrants at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Labourers work at a school building inside the premises of an under-construction detention centre for illegal immigrants at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
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The northeastern Indian state of Assam is building a detention center to house thousands of stateless citizens. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 08 September 2019

India builds first detention center for ‘stateless citizens’

  • The detention center is being built at a cost of more than $6 million
  • This is the first time any state government in India has built an exclusive detention center

ASSAM: The northeastern Indian state of Assam is building a detention center to house thousands of stateless citizens.
On Aug. 31 the state released its final list of the National Register of Citizenship (NRC), an exercise in establishing the genuine citizens of Assam. Out of 32 million people, about two million were not on the list.
Those who have been left off have four months to apply to foreign tribunals and higher courts.
The detention center is being built at a cost of more than $6 million at Dudhnoi village in the Goalpara district of Assam to house stateless citizens who could not find a place on the NRC.
“This detention center will keep 3,000 people and this is the first of its kind in Assam,” said Rabin Das, the engineer who is overseeing the construction of the center.
The Goalpara building is one of 11 such detention centers being planned in Assam’s districts across the state. Currently, the state has six detention centers that are run out of district jails. More than 1,000 people have been detained and are living in very poor conditions.
This is the first time any state government in India has built an exclusive detention center to hold illegal immigrants.
Sipali Hajjang, a local from the Hajjang tribe of Assam, has a job as a construction worker at the site of the new detention center at Dudhnoi. Her name is not on the NRC list and if her appeal is rejected at the foreign tribunal she may be arrested and put in the same detention center that she is helping to build.
“I am scared to work here because I know this is going to be a detention center,” Hajjang told Arab News.
“I am a poor person, I survive on daily wages. I am clueless how to appeal to the foreign tribunal and list my name on the NRC,” Hajjang said.
Her friend Sarojini Hajjang may also face the same fate.
Members of the Hajjang indigenous tribe came from East Pakistan in 1966 at the invitation of the Indian government. Most of them are poor and illiterate and could not fill in the NRC form. As a result, many of them have been left off the list despite assurances from the state government.
There are many such as Sipali Hajjang in Goalpara district, whose name is missing from the citizenship list and who face an uncertain future.
Imrana Begum, from the Darrang district in Assam, is the only one from her ten-member family whose name is missing from the NRC list. A daughter of a local legislator, Begum is upset that her name is not on the list.
“Is the government more keen to put people in the detention center than give justice to the people whose names have been erroneously removed from the NRC list,” Begum told Arab News.
She said that “the original idea of the government was to put Muslims in the detention centers but now the reality of the NRC is such that the number of Muslims left out is less than what the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has expected.”
Ranjit Das, the leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam, refused to comment on the detention centers.
“My only concern is the NRC right now and how to correct the anomaly in it,” Das said.
Suhas Chakma, of the Rights and Risks Analysis Group, a New Delhi-based human rights organization, questions the need to have a detention center in a civilized society.
“The government should wait for the NRC process to be completely over before going ahead with the detention center,” Chakma said.


Philippines begins termination of US deal

Earlier, Duterte said he would give the US a month to restore Dela Rosa’s visa. (AP)
Updated 25 January 2020

Philippines begins termination of US deal

  • The move comes after Washington’s refusal to issue a visa to ally of President Duterte

MANILA: The Philippines has started the process of terminating the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows the deployment of US forces to the country to conduct military exercises, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced on Friday.
The move comes one day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to do away with the agreement if the US did not reinstate the visa of his political ally and former police chief, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.
Although in a speech on Thursday night the president said he would give the US one month to restore Dela Rosa’s visa before terminating the VFA, Panelo told reporters the process had already begun.
“The President feels that we cannot sit down and watch idly,” he said, adding he had relayed the matter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin.
Locsin, in a Twitter post on Friday, confirmed he had called Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana “to start the process of terminating the VFA.”
Lorenzana, in a statement on Friday evening, said that he would discuss with the president “the various scenarios concerning the possible termination of the VFA, and what future actions may be undertaken by the Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding this matter.”
The defense chief said he could understand why the president was angered by the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa, over alleged extrajudicial killings in connection with the government’s anti-drug war.
“It is a direct affront to (the president) being the architect of the drug war upon his assumption of office,” the defense chief said.
He noted that Duterte ordered Dela Rosa when he was installed as police chief in 2016 to launch the drug war, and promised to back him. “He is just being true to his promise,” Lorenzana stressed.
Dela Rosa himself said details surrounding the revocation of his US visa remain unclear to him. He added that it “might be related” to the anti-drug war.
The Philippines Department of Justice said it was studying the “proper procedure to terminate the VFA.”
Responses from Philippine lawmakers have been mixed.
“In the absence of a Philippines Supreme Court ruling on the president’s power to unilaterally break a treaty or bilateral agreement like the VFA, without the consent of a 2/3 supermajority vote of the members of the senate, the president can do that without the senate’s approval or consent,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the VFA termination would work in favor of China, and so did not come as a surprise.
According to Lorenzana: “The termination of the VFA may be unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, and it is well within the right of the government to do so if it determines that the agreement no longer redounds to our national interest.
“Such a termination does not need the approval of the Philippine Congress. All that is required is that a notice of termination be served to the US government. The termination shall take effect 180 days after the date of the notice,” the defense chief stressed.