90% of Indian convicts in UAE don't want to return home

24 January 2014

Although almost 80 per cent of Indian prisoners in the United Arab Emirates are eligible for relocation to Indian jails under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement, only about 10 per cent of these wish to serve their remaining sentence back home while 90 per cent want to remain in UAE jails, where they get far better facilities than they would in India.

"We have received about 120 applications from prisoners expressing their interest to be transferred to Indian jails," India's ambassador to the UAE T P Seetharam said after visiting a central prison in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

This number constitutes only about 10 per cent of the total number of Indian prisoners in the UAE, though almost 80 per cent of them were eligible for relocation to Indian jails according to the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement signed by the two countries in November 2011.

The ambassador conducted a survey among the 1,000-odd Indian prisoners jailed across the UAE.

He found the prisoners preferred to stay on in the UAE not only due to the better facilities, but also because they did not want people back home to know that they had been jailed.  Some of the prisoners said they do not have any money to make calls to their families, while others need legal assistance in making appeals for clemency.

Seetharam said that the embassy had already forwarded the applications from those wishing to return to the UAE authorities. "Now, we need to get the approval from the UAE authorities. After that we will take it up with the ministry of home affairs in India which will then contact the respective governments of states where the prisoners wish to be transferred," he said.

Community leaders and volunteers assisting the missions with jail visits earlier said that the treaty had received a mixed response from the Indian prisoners.

Seetharam said the conditions in the Abu Dhabi prison he visited seemed reasonably good. "I spent more than two hours over there and spoke to about 60 Indian prisoners. I did not receive any complaint about the conditions in the prison," the ambassador said.

However, some of the prisoners said that they did not have any money to make calls to their families and some needed legal assistance. "We will be making some arrangements for these people," Seetharam said

The transfer pact applies to those who have already been convicted. Under-trials are not eligible for this benefit. Moreover, the crime should be punishable in both the countries.

A prisoner who wishes to be transferred must have a minimum of six months of jail term left and there should not be any pending case against him or her.

Both the governments of the host and receiving countries have the right to accept or reject the requests of the prisoners.

According to the agreement, the airfare for prisoners being sent to their country would be borne by the sending country.

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