All the persons identified as declared foreigners in Assam were shifted to the Goalpara district’s Matia transit camp, the largest detention centre in the state, reported PTI on Monday.

The Matia facility is used to hold persons identified as foreigners and awaiting deportation or repatriation, or persons waiting for their citizenship claims to be settled. Many of the detainees claim to be Indian citizens who were locked up because they were held as suspects by Assam’s foreigner detection mechanisms or could not furnish adequate documents to prove their citizenship.


The detention centres are now called transit camps, according to a state government notification.

The last batch of 87 detainees from Silchar detention centre was taken to the Matia transit camp, Assam Inspector General of Prisons Pubali Gohain told PTI. With this all the transfer process has been completed and the six detention centres in Assam will no longer exist, Gohain said.

The six detention centres were located inside the district jails of Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Silchar.


The process of shifting those declared foreigners had begun on January 27 with the transfer of 68 detainees from the Goalpara detention centre. There are 217 declared foreigners at the new Matia transit camp, Goalpara Deputy Commissioner Khanindra Choudhury told PTI.

“This figure changes very frequently with court verdicts and the deportation of foreigners,” he told the news agency. “Just three days ago, three Bangladeshis were sent back to their country from the Matia camp.”

Also read: Inside India’s largest detention centre: ‘It is better to die than live with no hope’


In 2014, the Centre had directed the Assam government to set up at least one exclusive detention centre for “foreigners” so that they are not kept with prisoners and undertrials in the jails.

The Assam government had then planned to construct at least 10 such centres considering the high number of persons who would be left out of the National Register of Citizens. The Matia detention centre was the first among the proposed 10 camps.

In August 2019, Assam had published a National Register of Citizens with the stated aim to distinguish Indian citizens from undocumented immigrants living in the state. According to its terms, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors entered Assam before midnight on March 24, 1971, cannot be considered a citizen.


Over 19 lakh people, or around 6% of the state’s population, were excluded from the final citizens’ list.

The state government had called the final draft of the National Register of Citizens “faulty” and alleged that it has excluded several indigenous people of Assam. Foreigners’ Tribunals were tasked with hearing their appeals against exclusion. Those whose claims are rejected face detention.

Most persons deemed to be foreigners and detained in the camps “lacked even elementary legal representation and had not been heard by the tribunals”, human rights activist Harsh Mander wrote in an article for Scroll in July 2019.

“They were mostly detained on the basis of ‘ex-parte orders’, or orders passed without hearing the accused person because they allegedly failed to appear before the tribunals despite being served legal notices,” Mander had said.