No detention centre for illegal immigrants? There is one right near Bengaluru

At first appearance, it looks almost like an imposing jail — with a formidable 10-ft high boundary wall, barbed wires and two watch towers.

Anil Gejji & B V Shiva Shankar | TNN | Updated: Dec 24, 2019, 14:40 IST

The state government had planned to open the centre in January, but advanced it reportedly following a directi…Read MoreBENGALURU: Contrary to PM Modi’s statement on Sunday, Karnataka has already launched its first detention centre for illegal immigrants near Nelamangala, about 40km from Bengaluru.
Addressing a rally at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, Modi had said, while referring to the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), that there are no detention centres in India. “We’ve opened the centre and it’s ready to house illegal immigrants,” RS Peddappaiah, commissioner, social welfare department, told TOI. A top state home department official confirmed the development.

The state government had planned to open the centre in January, but advanced it reportedly following a directive from the Union government. Since the centre has been operational only for a few days, no illegal immigrant has been lodged there yet. “The Foreign Regional Registration Office identifies illegal immigrants and sends them to the detention centre. We are ready to house them with necessary infrastructure and staff,” Peddappaiah said.

The government has converted a social welfare department hostel into a detention centre. The facility has six rooms, a kitchen and a security room, and it can house 24 people. Two watchtowers have been built and the compound wall is secured with barbed wire.

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In November the state government had informed the Karnataka HC that it had identified 35 temporary detention centres in all districts of the state to house illegal immigrants. The submission came during a hearing of bail petitions of two illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The government had said 612 cases were registered under the Foreigners Act and other laws against 866 persons of different countrie

First detention centre in Nelamangala Taluk about 40km from Bengaluru. (Photo | EPS)

BENGALURU: With the Centre in denial over the existence of detention centres to house illegal immigrants, what will happen to the one coming up in Bengaluru’s backyard? Karnataka’s first detention centre in Nelamangala taluk, about 40 km from here, can house 25. Located in Sondekoppa, it is almost ready for inauguration.

At first appearance, it looks almost like an imposing jail — with a formidable 10-ft high boundary wall, barbed wires and two watchtowers.

The centre, which stands in a half-acre and 20 guntas land, has five rooms where illegal immigrants and overstaying foreigners will be housed, a common kitchen and a common bathroom.

What was once an OBC hostel is now busy with policemen patrolling the area and letting in only contract labourers, construction workers, electricians and plumbers.

“It was a women’s hostel earlier. The work started six months ago. The centre could be even inaugurated in the first week of January,” said an employee who is in charge of construction.

Even groceries have been stocked at the centre.

A senior police officer said the five rooms have five beds each. The work pending relates to the completion of staff quarters and toilets.

“Even that is almost done. Just plastering of the bathroom and staff quarters is to be completed. It will be done in another week’s time,” explained the officer. 

According to locals, the entire construction work was done in a hush-hush manner —even the local panchayat had no idea what was coming up there.

A former Zilla Panchayat member said, “We wanted this building for the gram panchayat office but the social welfare department has not shared any details with us. And now a detention centre is coming up here.”

Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai had earlier said that NRC will definitely be implemented in Karnataka and construction of the detention centre has been almost completed.

A huge database of illegal migrants is also being put together by the state.

Bommai had recently said, “We are presently collecting information of all illegal immigrants, drug dealers from other countries who have been nabbed and also foreign nationals. A lot of them who have crossed the borders in South India have settled in Karnataka and it is the question of people’s security.”

The state government had also recently told the Karnataka High Court that 612 cases have been registered against 866 foreigners for overstaying their visa period and for violation of various laws, including the provisions of Indian Penal Code and Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act till October 2019.

Also the State Public Prosecutor (SPP)-II made a submission to that effect before Justice K N Phaneendra, during the hearing of bail applications filed by illegal Bangladeshi immigrants that 35 temporary foreigners’ detention centres were identified in various districts and commissionerates across the state.

When The New Indian Express asked a senior police officer how a detention centre that can house only 25 persons can accommodate many people who are detained, he said on the condition of anonymity,

“This place is ready for now. There are other places too which we are trying to zero in on. This place also has scope for expansion. We will build more rooms if necessary.”This building was re-purposed to be used as a detention centre during the coalition government.

TOI and IE