20th June 2018   •   article
Sikh and Christian refugees from India jailed in cells 'for 22 hours a day' by US govt

by Barfi Culture Team | @barfi_culture.
Image: Guardian video
As Barfi Culture reported yesterday, the Trump administration has imprisoned over 100 asylum seekers, mostly from India, at a federal prison in Oregon state as part of its new zero-tolerance policy.

Now, a US Congresswoman who went to visit those detainees says what she saw "shook her to the core".

Suzanne Bonamici, who represents Oregon's 1st District, wrote an account of conditions at the prison, saying the men were being separated from their wives and children, and were not receiving medical care. She heard stories of people fleeing "horrific violence or religious persecution" she said.

According to the local newspaper, a majority of the detainees spoke Hindi or Punjabi and a few identified as Chinese. 52 of them listed India as their home country and several identified as Sikhs or Christians fleeing religious persecution.

The Congresswoman wrote: "Most were asking for asylum because they experienced violence or persecution in their home countries. Several had traveled to the border with a wife and a child or children; none knew where their family members are."

"To clarify — it is not a crime to come to the United States to seek asylum; in fact, it is a right provided by international treaty." - she pointed out repeatedly.

"Through our Punjabi translator, we learned that these men were planning to request asylum because they faced severe religious persecution in India. Most are Sikh or Christian. Instead they were incarcerated in a federal prison," she wrote.

"They said they came to the United States for religious freedom, but they felt as if they were “going crazy” because they are being confined in small cells for up to 22 hours a day."

The Congresswoman spoke to Spanish speakers, to detainees from Nepal, China, and several African countries too.

One man showed her where he had been shot, twice. He had not been allowed to see a doctor.

"These stories we heard were compelling and disturbing. These men were victims of horrific crimes or unbearable persecution. Instead of getting information about their rights to request asylum, they were treated as criminals."

The advocacy group Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) is now raising money to provide legal representation to the detainees, as well hold vigils on their behalf.

They are also calling for an end to the detention immediately.

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