Visakhapatnam: The Indian Diaspora is the world’s largest and many Indians are also lodged in jails of about 79 countries across the continents. According to official records, about 6,849 Indians are serving time in jails in various countries as on Nov., 2016.
Unfortunately, a good fraction of these Indians being under-trials, they are forced to remain in jails for years on the foreign land due to delay in the trials. The plight of these prisoners can be gauged from the fact that some Indians, even after completing their sentences, have been waiting for the completion of deportation formalities.
Language barrier and cultural differences being the most immediate obstacles, their access to legal services, treatment meted out to them in the prisons and the level of charges were always a debated topic. Tens of people from AP and TS, who had flown to Gulf countries for menial jobs such as domestic help, etc. and lodged in jails, are also seeking the government’s intervention.
Vice-president of Migrants Rights Council and Editor of Pravasi Mithra magazine, M. Bheem Reddy, who has been working for the rights of migrant workers and NRIs, said: “Many Indian prisoners are not in a situation of paying the petty fines and unfortunately spending time behind the bars. It is time to bolster the legal cells in the embassies to extend help to all the needy migrant workers and NRIs. On the lines of Kerala, AP and TS governments, civil society and NGOs should play an active role in helping the prisoners,” he added.
Malaysia and Kuwait jails are home to about 388 and 459 Indians respectively. The crimes of these prisoners range from violation of immigration or visa rules, overstay, illegal entry and non-possession of valid travel document, valid visa or permit to grave offences like drug trafficking, murder, etc.
Indians in jails in USA, UK too
Contrary to the popular notion that Indians are mostly jailed in Gulf countries, developed countries like USA, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Germany, etc. have hundreds of Indians as their prisoners.
Due to the strict provisions of privacy laws, the USA, Canada, Australia and many countries in the Europe don’t inform the Indian embassies about lodging of Indian nationals in their jails.
This has been preventing the Indian officials from providing the Indian nationals legal advice and aid, requesting local authorities for speedy trials, seeking remission of sentence and ensuring fair and humane treatment in foreign jails.
The USA has about 640 Indian prisoners and Australia has about 56 prisoners.
India has signed treaties for transfer of sentenced persons with 42 countries and this need to be extended to other countries to bring back the Indian nationals in foreign jails.
As per the Ministry of External Affairs officials, whenever the Indian nationals complete their sentences and are waiting for completion of deportation formalities, Indian Missions and Posts in those countries take up with the respective foreign governments the speeding up of the process. This includes issue of final Exit Visas, waiver of penalties imposed on Indian workers, etc.