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Kerala plans transit homes for housing foreign nationals, three to come up initially

Dileep V Kumar, Thiruvananthapuram, September 10

Foreign nationals who face various rules violations will now not be sent to jails in Kerala. Instead, they will get lodged at ‘transit homes’ being set up by the Social Justice Department (SJD). Though the plan is to establish 14 such homes, initially it will come up in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, and Kozhikode districts. According to the SJD, which had prepared a guideline for establishing ‘transit homes’, the facility will act as a temporary house for foreigners who are facing various rules violations and they have to stay here till their deportation.

A ‘transit home’ is expected to have the facility of lodging 30 men, 30 women, five transgenders, and five families. Those who are sent to ‘transit homes’ could stay there for a maximum of one year or till the completion of legal procedures or whichever is earlier.

“Only such foreigners who are sent by courts or jail authorities or Foreign Registration Office or Foreign Regional Registration Offices or by law enforcement agencies,” said an officer of the SJD.

The officer further added, “An eligibility criteria of those who can be housed at transit homes has been prepared. Foreign nationals who are detained under national security or public security interests will not be housed at transit homes. Instead, they will be sent to jails.”

As per the guideline, only those foreign national who falls under any of the following seven categories will get housed at transit homes, they are,

–      those faced proceedings on charges including traveling without valid documents, embassy-related issues, and others

–      illegal immigrants are traced out by agencies and their lodging is subject to the certification provided by the state home department

–      those who are declared as a ‘foreigner’ by a foreigners’ tribunal

–      those who landed here with forged documents for ‘medical emergencies’ and are waiting for a ‘eligible to travel’ declaration from the concerned, only those who are certified by an assistant surgeon will be eligible for staying at transit homes

–      those who are facing restrictions or deportation imposed by Foreign Registration Office/ Foreign Regional Registration Office

–      those who violate visa conditions like overstaying, based on certifications from police personnel (SI rank) and Norka

–      those foreigners who landed in jail due to suspicious conduct or violent or disorderly behavior, their admission is subjected to approval from the police superintendent or superintendent of the mental health center

The guideline mandates that transit homes should get established outside the jail premises. If it is being set up inside a jail, then it should be free from a jail-like atmosphere and restrictions.

“Such homes could either be newly made ones or be operated from rented buildings. Foreigners will have the right to contact their embassy/consulate and their family members. They will be made aware of the same at the time of admission itself. Staff at transit homes will be provided with an orientation on how to behave with foreigners. A skill development center could be set up at transit homes. Children being lodged at transit homes will be provided with education as they could seek admission to a school nearest to the home,” reads an excerpt from the guideline.

The transit homes will be operated with the help of various departments including Police, Jail, Health, Education, Finance, Women and Child Development, Norka and others.

It was based on a high court directive that the government decided to set up transit homes. While hearing an appeal filed by two Nigerian nationals in 2020, it was Justice PV Kunhikrishnan who directed the home secretary to establish transit homes. Following that, the state police established a temporary facility at Thrissur’s Poonkunnam. But now it was decided to establish ‘transit homes’ in all districts based on the Ministry of Home Affairs’ 2019 Model Detention Manual.

At the same time, it is learned that the plan to set up such centers was put on hold in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as the government is said to have believed that any such move will label it as pro-CAA. It is also said that it’s to avoid such labeling that the ‘detention centers’ are termed as ‘transit homes’