8,330 Indians languishing in prisons of 90 countries; UAE, Saudi Arabia, Nepal have maximum number of them

Tribune Web Desk

Vibha Sharma

Chandigarh, July 28  

From one in countries like Albania, Chile, Argentina, Switzerland and Sweden to 1,611 in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Ministry of External Affairs, currently there are as many as 8,330 Indian prisoners, including undertrials, languishing in prisons of 90 countries across the world.

The top three in the list are 1,611 in the UAE, 1,461 in Saudi Arabia and 1,222 in Nepal, as per a written reply by Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar in Lok Sabha.         

The neighbourhood also has quite a few Indian prisoners and not just in “hostile” Pakistan. Apart from 308 Indian prisoners in Pakistan and 178 in China, there are 60 in Bangladesh, 57 in Bhutan, 20 in Sri Lanka and 26 in Myanmar.

Maximum in Gulf countries  

Though the maximum number appears to be in Gulf countries— the UAE (1,611), Saudi Arabia (1,461), Qatar (696), Kuwait (446), Bahrain (277) and Oman (139).

While there are many foreign prisons with Indian prisoners in single digit like Switzerland, Egypt and Ethiopia, countries with sizable figures also include Malaysia (341), Italy (157), the UK (249), the US (294), Singapore (71), France (40), Australia (74), Thailand (36), Cyprus (51) and Germany (77).

The favourite migration destination of Indians—Canada—has 23 in its jails.    

Number may not be exact

According to the government, due to strong privacy laws in many countries, the local authorities do not share information on prisoners unless the person concerned consents to the disclosure of such information. Even countries which share information do not generally provide detailed information about foreign nationals imprisoned.

As per information shared by Indian Missions/Posts abroad, since 2014 as many as 4,597 Indians have received pardon or reduction of their sentences “due to sustained efforts by the Indian Government through various channels”. However, again, “some countries grant pardon or reduction of sentence to inmates of various nationalities from time to time but do not share the data with countries concerned”.

Indian efforts for release

India, Jaishankar said, attaches the highest priority to the safety, security and well-being of its nationals in foreign countries, including those in foreign jails.

“Indian Missions/Posts abroad remain vigilant and closely monitor the incidents of Indian nationals being put in jail in foreign countries for violation/alleged violation of local laws.

“As soon as the information about the detention/arrest of an Indian national is received by an Indian Mission/Post, it immediately gets in touch with the local Foreign Office and other local authorities to get consular access to the detained/arrested Indian national to ascertain the facts of the case, confirm his or her Indian nationality and ensure his or her welfare.

“Apart from extending all possible consular assistance to Indians imprisoned abroad, Indian Missions and Posts also assist in providing legal aid wherever needed and approach the law-enforcement agencies to complete the investigation and judicial proceedings at the earliest possible. Missions and Posts also maintain a local panel of lawyers where the Indian community is in sizable numbers.

“No fee is charged from any Indian prisoner for extending facilities by the Indian Embassy concerned. The Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) is set up in Indian Missions & Posts abroad for assisting overseas Indian nationals in distress situations on a means tested basis in deserving cases. The support extended under ICWF includes financial assistance to Indian prisoners for legal aid as well as travel documents/air tickets during repatriation,” he said.

The government also follows up the issue of release and repatriation of Indian nationals in foreign prisons during consular and other consultations with countries concerned.

In addition, India, through its Missions/Posts abroad and during high-level visits, also takes up and pursues grant of amnesty/commutation of sentences of its prisoners in foreign countries.

Exchange of prisoners/agreements  

India has an agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons (TSP) with 31 countries under which Indian prisoners lodged in foreign countries can be transferred to India to serve the remainder of their sentence and vice-versa.

The countries are Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Egypt, Estonia, France, Hong Kong, Iran, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

India also has two multilateral conventions on transfer of sentenced persons—Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad and Council of Europe Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons—by virtue of which sentenced persons of member states and other countries which have acceded to these conventions can seek transfer to their native countries to serve the remainder of their sentence, he said.

From 2006 till January 2022, 86 prisoners were transferred under Transfer of Sentenced Persons. They were 75 Indian prisoners transferred to India and 11 foreign prisoners transferred to their respective countries.

Generally any offence punishable with an imprisonment of one year or a more severe penalty is an extraditable offence. Fugitives can be extradited pursuant to a bilateral extradition treaty or arrangement or an applicable international convention.

India also has extradition treaties with 50 countries and extradition arrangements with 12 countries—Croatia,  Peru, Tanzania, Fiji, Singapore, Antigua & Barbuda, Italy, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Papua New Guinea, Sweden and New Zealand.

#Sri Lanka


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