266 Indian fishermen languishing in foreign jails: Centre

"There are 41 fishermen who went from Tamil Nadu in Sri Lanka, 184 fishermen went from Gujarat in Pakistan, 10 fishermen in Bahrain and 31 fishermen in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the Parshottam Rupala said.

New Delhi: As many as 266 Indian fishermen are languishing in foreign jails, the government on Tuesday said, adding that efforts are being made to secure their early release.

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In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Rupala said, “As per the information available with the Ministry of External Affairs, there are 266 Indian fishermen languishing in foreign jails”.

“There are 41 fishermen who went from Tamil Nadu in Sri Lanka, 184 fishermen went from Gujarat in Pakistan, 10 fishermen in Bahrain and 31 fishermen in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the minister said.

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As per the data available, 1,172 fishing boats from Gujarat and 87 fishing boats from Tamil Nadu are under the custody of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, respectively.

“The Government attaches highest priority to the safety, security and welfare of
Indian fishermen. As soon as cases of apprehension of Indian fishermen and their fishing boats are reported, immediate steps are taken by Indian Missions and Posts to seek consular access, ensure their welfare and also pursue their early release and repatriation along with their boats,” Rupala asserted.

The minister said that consular Officers of Missions/Posts make regular visits to local jails and detention centres to ascertain the condition of Indian fishermen lodged in foreign jails and provide requisite help and support, including legal assistance through the Indian Community Welfare Fund.

Rupala informed that Missions/Post abroad also approached the law enforcement agencies to complete the investigation and judicial proceedings at the earliest possible.
“The focus of the Government’s efforts is on securing the early release of fishermen,” he said.

The minister said steps are taken regularly by the Indian Coast Guard to guide Indian fishermen not to cross the perceived International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) through various community interaction programmes for the fishing community.

“The Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft maintain close surveillance along the
perceived IMBL and shepherd the Indian fishing boats towards Indian waters to prevent their apprehension by Maritime Security Agencies of neighbouring countries, if required,” Rupala said.

The minister said the government remains continuously engaged in early release and repatriation of Indian fishermen along with the fishing boats.

He said the government has put in place bilateral mechanisms to ensure cooperation and understanding between India and the countries concerned to promote the safety and security of Indian fishermen.

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