CHENNAI (TIP): More than 6,500 Indians are living an uncertain life in prisons in 80 foreign countries, half of them in three Gulf countries. The Gulf countries have the largest number of Indian prisoners, with 1,691 in Kuwait, 1,161 in Saudi Arabia and 1,012 in the UAE. Among the neighbours, Pakistan holds 253 Indians in its prisons, China has 157 of them and Sri Lanka 63. Languishing in the Nepal prisons are 377 Indians. Italy, a country that recently raised a huge uproar demanding special guest house and home-made food for its two citizens arrested on charges of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast, has 121 Indian citizens in its prisons. The United Kingdom has 426 Indian inmates in their jails, thanks to a fast growing migration of skilled and unskilled labourers.
There are 155 Indians in the US prisons. The statistics, obtained through RTI by Kochi-based NGO Human Rights Defense Forum, shows 6,569 Indians are in foreign prisons. On Indian prisoners in 30 countries, the ministry of external affairs said it had ‘nil report.’ The RTI reply also says “this figure keeps changing,” and gives no details about the prisoners or the charges against them. In 2007, it was reported that the number of Indian prisoners abroad had come down from 6,730 in 2005 to around 6,000. The RTI reply given by the ministry last month shows the number has gone up again. T P Sreenivasan, former ambassador of India to the United Nations, said ordinary crimes, drug trafficking and domestic violence land Indians in jails in European countries.
“But a large number of prisoners in the Gulf countries are arrested for badly formulated contracts, illegal stay and migration,” he said. In Malaysia (187 Indian prisoners) and Singapore (156), most of the Indians have been arrested for immigration violations and a few for criminal cases like drug trafficking. In Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, most of the arrests are made on charges of violation of immigration laws. Sreenivasan said different factors, including delay in ensuring justice, communication between the local government and the Indian offices abroad play a major role in the number and duration of detentions.