According to the latest available information with the MEA, more than 6800 Indian Nationals are lodged in foreign jails. More than half of them are lodged in jails of the Middle East nations. Indian nationals are in jails of 72 different nations.
As per the latest available information with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), more than 6800 Indian nationals are lodged in foreign jails. More than half of them are lodged in jails of the Middle East nations. These include defence personnel, fishermen and other Indian citizens.
A quarter of them are languishing in Saudi Arabian Jails
Out of the all the Indian nationals in foreign jails, more than half of them are lodged in jails of the Middle East nations. 1696 Indians are in jails of Saudi Arabia followed by 1143 in jails of the United Arab Emirates. Nepal is third with 859 Indians in its jails. Kuwait has 434 Indians in its jails. Malaysia has 356, United Kingdom has 356, Pakistan has 230 and USA has 188. All in all, Indians are lodged in jails of 72 different countries. More than 100 Indians are lodged in jails of 14 different countries. Only one Indian is lodged in jails of 14 other different countries.
This number could be more because many western countries do not share information about foreign nationals who are in their jails due to the strict provisions of their privacy laws. The information available with the MEA is gathered by Indians Missions abroad.
Why are they in Jails?
As per information provided by the MEA, these Indians are in foreign jails for various crimes such as
- Violation of immigration/VISA rules such as overstay and illegal entry
- Non-possession of valid travel documents
- Economic offences
- Violation of employment contracts
- Working without a valid visa/permit
- Consumption of alcohol in countries that have prohibition
A few Indians are also in foreign jails for grave offences like drug trafficking, theft, murder etc.
Indian Fishermen are apprehended every year
Apart from those lodged in foreign jails, Indian fishermen operating in waters between India and its neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are regularly apprehended by these nations for allegedly entering their territory. Most of them are released later along with their boats depending on agreements with these countries. More than 4000 Indian fishermen are apprehended by these 3 countries since 2013. Out of the 683 fishermen apprehended by Bangladesh since 2013, all of them have been released except for the 10 fishermen apprehended in 2016. Pakistan has apprehended 1428 Indian fishermen during this period out of which 1082 have been released. It is believed that 220 Indian fishermen are still in Pakistani jails. During this period, more than 2000 fishermen have been apprehended by Sri Lanka out of which most of them are released except 13 who are in custody.
In case of Pakistan, India has a bilateral Agreement on Consular Access, signed in May 2008. The India-Pakistan Joint Judicial Committee, consisting of retired judges of superior judiciary from the two countries, visit jails in both countries, to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners, including fishermen, who have completed their prison terms.
In the case of Sri Lanka, Indian Mission works closely with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence, the Attorney General’s Office and the law enforcement agencies, to secure the release and repatriation of apprehended fishermen. There is a Joint Working Group on Fisheries and a Joint Committee on Fisheries, which take up fishermen’s issues for resolution on basis of the bilateral Understanding on Practical Arrangements of October 2008. In addition, talks are held from time to time between Fishermen’s Associations in India and Sri Lanka.
In the case of Bangladesh, on receipt of information of the arrest of Indian fishermen, Mission contacts the concerned District Magistrates in India to ascertain their Indian nationality and thereafter pursue with the Bangladesh authorities for their release. For this, Mission seeks consular access from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and contacts local NGOs for their welfare during their imprisonment in Bangladesh.
74 Indian Defence Personnel are also believed to be in Pakistan’s custody
As per information available with the MEA, 74 missing defence personnel are believed to be in Pakistan’s custody, including 54 since 1971. According to the MEA, the Indian government has repeatedly taken up the matter with the Government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels and during high-level contacts, for their release. However, Pakistan does not acknowledge the presence of any Indian missing defence personnel in its custody.
MEA also maintains that the Indian government has conventionally held the position that India and Pakistan cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in disputes concerning armed conflicts, hostilities etc. as both are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. But according to the MEA, this position has been reviewed and subject to Supreme Court’s judgment in an ongoing matter, government would be open to invoking the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.