Gulf countries account for more than half of the Indian prisoners including undertrials and convicts lodged in foreign jails. According to data available with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), as many as 8,441 Indians including women are lodged in foreign jails in 69 countries in connection with various offences ranging from murder to domestic violence.
Of them, 4,389 are lodged in jails of Gulf countries. Around 1,858 persons are lodged in prisons in the UAE alone, which accounts for the highest number of Indian convicts in a foreign country, followed by Nepal with 1,222. Data also reveal that as many as 115 female prisoners are languishing in jails in 19 countries, while the gender-wise list of convicts in some countries is not available.
One Indian female was convicted on charges of drug trafficking in Finland which has been ranked as the world’s happiest country for the fifth consecutive year in 2022 in an annual UN-sponsored index, while the jails in Afghanistan which is ranked as the unhappiest country in the world, has no Indian convicts or under-trials.
Among the developed countries in Europe and the Americas, the jails in the U.S. have 261 Indian inmates followed by the U.K. with 219. There is also a significant number of Indian convicts in countries like Australia (65), Canada (23), France (29), Germany (92), Singapore (26), Spain (40), Sweden (2), etc. Though Kerala is among States which send the highest number of people abroad, the State-wise list of prisoners or undertrials from the State is not available.
Speaking to The Hindu, NoRKA Roots Chief Executive Officer K. Harikrishnan Namboothiri said the government agency has launched ‘Pravasi Legal Aid Cell’ to provide free legal assistance to non-resident Keralites (NRKs) lodged in jails in various countries, especially in West Asia, for minor offences or cases in which they were falsely implicated. Mr. Namboothiri also said the agency is in the process of collecting data on the exact number of Keralites lodged in foreign jails, including the details of the offences.
According to MEA, Kerala (1.12 crore) has the highest number of passport holders in the country with Malappuram ranked third in the list of districts with the most number of passports issued (19,32,622), after Mumbai (35,56,067) and Bengaluru (34,63,405).
As of 2021, it is estimated that 1.35 crore Indian nationals are residing in various countries outside India and Gulf countries alone account for 87. 51 lakh Indians among whom over 30 lakh are Keralites.