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Parliament has put its seal of approval on a bill which seeks to extend imprisonment from two to eight years to foreigners staying illegally in the country with Lok Sabha passing the relevant provision.

Replying to a brief debate on the bill which seeks to amend the Foreigners Act of 1946, minister of state for home Harin Pathak sought to allay Opposition apprehensions of needless harassment of foreigners, saying sufficient safeguards were in place to ensure that this did not happen.

Opposition members said people who have overstayed due to situations beyond their control would now have to face a long prison term for no fault of theirs.
Foreigners overstaying in the country after the expiry of their visas and those entering the country on forged passports or without valid documents can be hauled up under the amended act. These persons are also liable to pay a fine ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000.

S Nachiappan of the Congress said the government should come forward with a comprehensive legislation to deal with illegal immigrants and infiltrators. He accused the government of not taking into consideration the recommendations made by the parliamentary standing committee and the Law Commission while bringing the present bill.

Deprecating the government for bringing the bill in "haste", the Congress member said it only provided district authorities with unfettered powers and that there was no mechanism to determine who among such persons should be treated with a different perspective. GM Banatwala of the Muslim League said situations may arise which are beyond the control of individuals as a result of which they have to overstay.

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