A foreign national prisoner refers to an individual who is confined or
imprisoned in a foreign country, despite being a citizen of another nation. In
simpler terms, it means that this person is not originally from the country
they are incarcerated in but is detained within its legal system and
detention facilities due to suspected or convicted criminal activity committed
within that foreign nation.
Foreign national prisoners often encounter various complex issues and hurdles
that stem from their nationality. These challenges can greatly impact the way
they are treated and the rights they have while in custody. Moreover,
individuals face communication challenges in the legal system and interaction
with fellow inmates and prison staff due to language barriers. This difficulty
significantly hampers their ability to navigate through the legal processes
In addition, foreign nationals who are imprisoned may face challenges in
comprehending and exercising their legal rights, as the laws and regulations
of the foreign country may differ from their own. They also have the right to
receive consular assistance from their home country's embassy, although this
support may not always be readily available or easily accessible, further
complicating an already difficult situation. Taken together, these unique
circumstances and obstacles distinguish foreign national prisoners from others
within the prison system.
Problems faced by Foreign National Prisoners
The foreign national prisoners face many problems in jails.
Their main problems
may be categorized as follows:
Foreign nationals incarcerated in local prisons face a myriad of challenges that
set them apart from the general prison population. One significant issue is
their isolation from other prisoners, resulting in social and cultural
alienation. This isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnect
from the prison community.
Language barriers compound their difficulties, making it challenging to
communicate with fellow inmates and prison staff. This linguistic divide can
exacerbate their sense of isolation and hinder their understanding of prison
rules and regulations.
Another distressing aspect is the limited or nonexistent family contact. Many
foreign inmates struggle to maintain connections with their loved ones, leading
to emotional distress and further isolation from the outside world.
Discrimination is another issue faced by foreign nationals in prison, stemming
from a limited understanding of local prison procedures and criminal justice
systems. This lack of knowledge can lead to unfair treatment and discriminatory
Accessing recreational and rehabilitation programs can be a challenge, denying
these inmates opportunities for personal growth and rehabilitation.
Additionally, obtaining consular support can be difficult, as diplomatic
missions may not always be willing or able to provide assistance, leaving
foreign prisoners feeling abandoned.
Financial woes are common during their incarceration and upon their return to
their home countries. They may also find themselves excluded from alternative
sentencing options due to their foreigner status, further complicating their
Moreover, obtaining free legal aid can be difficult, and they may not have
access to information about their rights and obligations due to language
barriers and a lack of prison rules in different languages.
Parole, a privilege granted to other inmates, is often denied to foreign
nationals. The lack of sensitivity among prison staff and the general population
toward foreign inmates can further alienate them.
Access to prescribed medicines may be problematic, and some airlines may refuse
boarding at the last minute, causing financial losses and distress. Delayed
nationality verification by foreign embassies, often due to the seizure of
passports, adds to their woes.
Arranging airplane tickets for released prisoners and coordinating between
various authorities involved in their release can be challenging and
time-consuming. Furthermore, these inmates often have limited interaction with
their advocates, leaving them unaware of the status of their legal cases.
Overall, foreign nationals in local prisons face a range of complex challenges
that demand attention and support to ensure their rights and well-being are
Acts, Rules and Orders Governing Foreign National Prisoners in India
Foreigners Act 1946, the Foreigners Order 1948, the Foreigner (Tribunal) Order
1964, Foreigner's Tribunal and Illegal Migrants (Determination Tribunals) 1979,
the Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920, the Citizenship Act 1955, the
Citizenship (Registration of Citizen & Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules
2003, the Citizenship Rules 2009 and the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 2003
govern the entry, stay, and removal of foreigners in India. If the High Court or
Supreme Court passes any order vis-�-vis foreign national prisoners, the same
will have to be followed even if they are in contravention of any existing act
Foreign National Prisoners in India
The number of foreign nation prisoners has increased by 13% in the year 2021 as
compared to the year 2020. Out of the total of 5,565 foreign national prisoners
in the year 2021, 4646 were males, 906 females and 13 transgender. The convicts
comprised of 19.4% and the under-trial prisoners consisted of 74.6% while 0.7%
In 2021, the majority of foreign national convicts were from
Bangladesh (46.8%), with Nepal (26%), Nigeria (6.8%), and Pakistan (5.8%)
following behind. Amongst these countries, West Bengal had the highest number
of foreign national convicts in prisons at 30.5%, followed by Uttar Pradesh at
23.8% and Delhi at 5.6%. Similarly, when it comes to foreign national
under-trial prisoners, the highest percentage was from Bangladesh at 41.8%,
with Nigeria at 18.7% and Nepal at 14.2%.
West Bengal accounted for the highest number of foreign national under-trial
prisoners in their jails (28.4%), followed by Delhi (14.2%) and Maharashtra
(12.1%) in the year 2021. The share of foreign national prisoners out of the
total prisoners' population at the national level was 1% in the year 2021.
In some countries a majority of the total population of the prisons are
constituted of foreign national prisoners. As for example, out of the total
prisoners' population in the jails of UAE, 90% are foreign national prisoners.
In Europe, foreign national prisoners consist of approximately 21% of the total
Foreign National Prisoners in West Bengal
In the year 2019, in West Bengal out of total prisoners' population of 1911,
there were 1616 males, 256 females and no transgender. There were 412 convicts
and 1222 under-trial prisoners.
In the year 2020, in West Bengal out of total prisoners' population of 1982,
there were 1553 males, 429 females and no transgender. There were 466 convicts
and 1295 under-trial prisoners.
In the year 2021, in West Bengal out of total prisoners' population of 1746,
there were 1380 males, 353 females and 13 transgender. There were 329 convicts
and 1179 under-trial prisoners.
The number of foreign national prisoners in West Bengal has decreased
considerably in the year 2021 (1746), as compared to that in the year 2020
(1982) and 2019 (1911).
Out of the total of 1746 foreign national prisoners in the year 2021 in West
Bengal, 3 were from North American Countries other than Canada, 01 from South
American Countries, 06 Africans (other than Nigerians), 01 from Nigeria, 01 from
CIS (Russian) Federation, 02 Chinese, 01 Nepalese, 10 Pakistanis, 55 from
Myanmar, 1658 Bangladeshis, 01 Sri Lankan and 07 Other Foreign Nationals. 95% of
the total foreign national prisoners in the prisons of West Bengal were from
Repatriation and Deportation of Foreign National Prisoners
In respect of any foreign national prisoner convicted under Foreigners Act,
1946, Indian Penal Code or any other Act, direction of deportation/repatriation
of that foreign national is issued to the concerned jail superintendent by the
Sentencing Court on completion of the period of Sentence.
initiative is taken by him. Generally, Bangladeshi National Prisoners are sent
back to their native country mostly by the Deportation Process and Repatriation
Process is followed in case of other foreign nationals. In case of some
Bangladeshi national prisoners too the repatriation process is used, as per
order of the court.
Deportation Process of Bangladeshi National Prisoners
When any Bangladeshi national prisoner is about to complete his/her period of
sentence, a proposal for deportation along with full particulars in prescribed
format with recent photograph of that released prisoner and Jail
Warrant/Commitment Warrant having endorsement of direction of deportation are
sent to the Home and Hill Affairs Department (Foreigners Branch), SAARC and VISA
Section, Government of West Bengal.
The Home and Hill Affairs Department
(Foreigners Branch) then forwards the list of such prisoners to the Bangladesh
Deputy High Commissioner, Kolkata for nationality verification. On completion of
nationality verification, order of deportation from the Home and Hill Affairs
Department (Foreigners Branch) is issued. The order is sent to the Border
Security Force Head Quarter of the State at Kolkata for fixing the date and
venue of deportation of the released prisoner.
The superintendent of the concerned correctional home also informs the matter
along with all documents to the Superintendent of Police, DIB, of the district
under whose jurisdiction the correctional home is located or to the Deputy
Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) of the concerned Police Commissionerate
requesting them to give clearance and provide police escort.
He also liaises
with BSF authorities in this regard regarding the date of deportation etc. After
completion of all formalities, Bangladeshi national released prisoners are
handed over to the police escort officer reporting at the correctional home in
presence of the officer deputed from the concerned Special Branch/DIB on the
date fixed for deportation, who in turn take the prisoner to the venue of
deportation at the Indo-Bangladesh Border and hand him/her over to the BSF
personnel posted there.
The BSF personnel take the prisoners along the
Indo-Bangladesh border and deport them to Bangladesh at a convenient time. The
deportation of any Bangladeshi national released prisoners requires the
involvement of Home and Hill Affairs Department (Foreigners Branch) of the
Government of West Bengal, Directorate of Correctional Services, West Bengal,
District Superintendent of Police, DIB, of the concerned district/Deputy
Commissioner of Police of Special Branch of the concerned Police Commissionerate,
Border Security Force (BSF) and Superintendent of the concerned Correctional
Repatriation Process of Other Foreign National Prisoners
When any foreign national prisoner other than Bangladeshi national prisoner
completes his/her sentence, the proposal for repatriation along with full
particulars in prescribed format with recent photograph of that released
prisoner and Jail Warrant/Commitment Warrant having endorsement of direction of
repatriation are sent to the Home and Hill Affairs Department (Foreigners
Branch), SAARC and VISA Section, West Bengal.
The prisoner's petition is also
taken vis-�-vis one surety who will bear expenditure of airfare and other cost
during repatriation of the foreign national. The Home and Hill Affairs
Department (Foreigners Branch), SAARC and VISA Section, West Bengal sends all
the related documents of the prisoner to the Ministry of External Affairs,
Government of India, who in turn send the necessary documents to the concerned
embassy who issue ETD (Emergency Travel Documents valid for one month) and send
the same to FRRO, Kolkata wherefrom it is sent to the superintendent of the
correctional home, who hand over the same to the foreign national prisoner
asking him to arrange for air ticket et al with the help of his relatives or
personally. Sometimes, FRRO arrange for the air ticket in case of inability of
the foreign national prisoner to purchase the ticket.
After the purchase of
ticket, the concerned airlines are informed of the travel plan. If required,
representatives of the embassy may visit the correctional home to meet the
foreign national prisoner for nationality verification, as per order of the
Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and DG/ADG/IG of Correctional
Services, West Bengal. The correctional home authority receives ETC and Order
for repatriation from the FRRO.
Accordingly, the correctional home authority informs along with all documents
the Superintendent of Police, DIB, under whose jurisdiction the correctional
home lies or to the concerned Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Branch for
escorting the prisoner to the airport. After completion of all formalities the
said foreign national is handed over to the police escort in presence of the
officer deputed from Special Branch/DIB along with all documents.
completion of immigration and other formalities the foreign national is handed
over to the immigration department of the airport authority by the Police Escort
for repatriation. Repatriation requires involvement of FRRO, Home and Hill
Affairs Department (Foreigners Branch) of the State Government, Ministry of
External Affairs, Government of India, District Superintendent of Police, DIB or
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Branch, Border Security Force (BSF),
concerned airlines, Immigration department at the airport and superintendent of
the correctional home.
Solutions to the Problems of Foreign National Prisoners
Several measures can be taken to improve the conditions and treatment of foreign
national prisoners in local prisons. One essential step is to establish a corpus
fund that can provide financial assistance for their travel and other expenses
upon release. This fund could be managed by the prison headquarters, foreign
embassies, or the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) to ensure they
have the necessary support for a smooth transition back to their home countries.
To address their isolation, regular family contact should be facilitated using
modern communication methods like mobile phones, video calls, or video
conferencing. Inclusion in recreational and rehabilitation programs within the
prisons can help improve their well-being and rehabilitation prospects.
Financial assistance, especially in emergencies, can be provided by concerned
foreign embassies or the state government through the prison department. This
support can alleviate financial burdens faced by foreign national prisoners
during their incarceration.
Sensitivity and cultural awareness programs for prison staff and the general
prison population should be implemented to ensure foreign national prisoners are
treated with respect. Removing isolation by facilitating interactions with local
prisoners while respecting cultural differences can create a more inclusive
Additionally, language barriers can be addressed by hiring interpreters or
seeking assistance from embassies. Including foreign nationals in the framework
of alternatives to imprisonment and providing free legal aid can help protect
Efforts should be made to translate prison rules and regulations into different
languages to aid foreign national prisoners' understanding of local laws.
Ensuring prompt notification of arrests to their family members, as well as
expediting nationality verification by concerned embassies, can improve their
Medical care, including access to prescribed medicines, should be a priority,
and arrangements can be made for remote consultations with their doctors.
Diplomatic missions should be educated on their responsibilities to provide
consular support, and immigration authorities should be sensitized to address
the specific needs of foreign national prisoners.
Facilitating parole, expediting court cases, and encouraging prompt police
investigations can help expedite their release. Advocates for their legal cases
can be funded by concerned embassies, given the limited financial resources of
the foreign national prisoners. Airlines should be informed about the importance
of not refusing boarding to foreign national prisoners without substantial
Effective coordination among various authorities, including prison and police
departments, airlines, embassies, and immigration officials, can streamline
processes and improve overall support for foreign national prisoners.
Addressing the issue of seized passports and other documents upon release is
crucial, ensuring that alternative arrangements are made for those with forged
International organizations like the United Nations Human Rights Organization
can review the plight of foreign national prisoners in all countries and provide
guidelines to member countries for their treatment and release. Efforts should
be made to prevent sexual exploitation and ensure the welfare of foreign
national women prisoners and transgender individuals.
Collaborative efforts between countries and embassies can lead to the exchange
of prisoners and expedited deportation and extradition processes. Adequate
planning for their release, improved healthcare facilities, upgraded prison
infrastructure, and the reduction of overcrowding are essential for their
Recruiting jail officers fluent in foreign languages can enhance communication,
and regular interactions can provide opportunities for prisoners to express
grievances. Keeping them informed about the progress of their court cases and
maintaining their hope for freedom is crucial for their mental and emotional
While it is true that foreign national prisoners lodged in different jails face
a number of problems right from their incarceration to release throughout the
world, their condition can be improved by taking various measures as discussed
above by the concerned authorities and by establishing better coordination
between the various stake holders in this regard.
Their plight needs to be
discussed at the various levels in order to ameliorate their condition in jails
in different countries of the world and facilitate their smooth release from the
prisons and subsequent return to their native countries.
Their various rights
guaranteed by the different treaties, laws, rules, guidelines and directions
given by the competent authorities and agencies should be guaranteed and
safeguarded to make their stay in prisons more comfortable and their release
from prison and return to their native countries more humane and smooth. By
taking the corrective measure, we can ensure their mental health, prevent their
trauma and agony, reduce the number of prisoners' population of the jails and
also bring down the number of deaths in prisons.
Written By: Md. Imran Wahab
The Issue, Penal Reform, International - https://www.penalreform.org/issues/foreign-nationals/the-issue/
The specific needs of foreign national prisoners and the threat to their mental health from being imprisoned in a foreign country, By Magali-Fleur Barnoux, Jane Louise Wood, Dept. of Psychology, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT27NP, 2023 - https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257525611_The_specific_needs_of_foreign_national_prisoners_and_the_threat_to_their_mental_health_from_being_imprisoned_in_a_foreign_country.
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Report of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB)
Reports all Sixty (60) Correctional Homes of West Bengal
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected]
, Ph no: 9836576565