Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 November 2019

Indian prisoners in UAE could be allowed to complete sentences in home country

Dozens of inmates could be transferred from prisons in the UAE to India as part of a long-standing agreement

The 22 prisoners will be released before the Eid holidays. Stephen Lock / The National
The 22 prisoners will be released before the Eid holidays. Stephen Lock / The National

Indian inmates in the UAE may be permitted to complete their sentences in their home country under a prison transfer initiative that will be discussed next month.

Officials are hopeful of a “breakthrough” in the prisoner transfer agreement during high-level discussions between both countries in the UAE in August.

The proposal is for a total of 77 prisoners to be moved from the Emirates to India as part of an agreement first made between the countries eight years ago.

There are currently about 1,100 Indian prisoners in jails in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

V Muraleedharan, India's new Minister of State for External Affairs in-charge of relations with the Gulf countries, told India's lower house of parliament that efforts are being made to repatriate the prisoners following a request by the Consulate General of India in Dubai.

"The proposal is being processed by the authorities concerned in the UAE and India, in accordance with the procedures laid down in the agreement," Mr Muraleedharan said.

Prisoners convicted for drug offences or financial fraud including bounced cheques and those required to pay blood money in criminal cases such as murder are not eligible for transfer.

The bilateral agreement on the "Transfer of sentenced persons" was signed by the two countries in 2011, with the deal coming into effect two years later.

The aim was to “facilitate the social rehabilitation of sentenced prisoners in their own countries,” Smita Pant, deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi told The National.

Neeraj Agarwal acting Consul General of India in Dubai, said the details of 77 prisoners who were most likely to benefit from the agreement had been handed over.

“We have a high-level joint working group that will cover this issue and other matters in the first week of August and we are expecting some breakthrough,” Mr Agarwal said.

“Right now we do not have concrete information about exactly how many prisoners will be repatriated.”

Procedures and the approval processes have long delayed the transfer of inmates. Volunteer workers who work with consular staff have said many prisoners did not want to return home since they have not told their family about their imprisonment.

The social stigma of being in jail was among the reasons that only about 7 per cent Indian prisoners signed up for the transfer home.

“The transfer depends on the wishes and will of the prisoner. You cannot force somebody serving a sentence in a local prison here to go to India,” said Mr Agarwal.

Prisoners in the UAE from various nationalities are often pardoned during Ramadan.

The UAE President Sheikh Khalifa in May had pardoned more than 3,000 prisoners and pledged to settle the financial penalties owed by 3,005 inmates as part of the country’s aim to provide the prisoners with the opportunity to start a new life.

During a visit to India in 2017, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, pardoned 149 Indian prisoners who had completed at least three years of prison sentences for financial and non-violent crimes committed in the emirate.

Updated: July 22, 2019 09:39 PM

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