Indian detained at Atlanta airport dies in custody


New York (PTI): A 58-year-old Indian man, who was in the US customs’ custody for entering the country illegally, has died after being hospitalised for shortness of breath.

Atul Kumar Babubhai Patel was taken into custody by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Atlanta City Detention Centre for two days.

He died on Tuesday afternoon at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital with the officials stating the preliminary cause of his demise as complications from congestive heart failure.

Patel had arrived at the Atlanta airport on May 10 on a flight from Ecuador.

Official sources in New Delhi said the Consulate General of India (CGI) in Atlanta had extended all assistance to Patel and has been in regular touch with his family in India as well as the local Gujarati Samaj. They said Patel passed away following illness.

They said the CGI has been authorised by Patel’s family to cremate his body in Atlanta and that the last rites will be performed once the body is handed over to the Consulate after post mortem.

The US Customs and Border Protection had denied Patel entry into the country as he did not possess the necessary immigration documents, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement.

Patel was transferred into the ICE custody last week at the Atlanta City Detention Centre where he received an initial medical screening and was found to have high blood pressure and diabetes.

On Saturday, two days after being in the ICE custody, a nurse checking Patel’s blood sugar noticed he had a breathing problem following which he was shifted to a hospital where he passed away.

ICE said it is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is “undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of the incident, as it does in all such cases”.

The agency informed the Indian consular representatives who notified Patel’s kin about his demise.

The agency added that fatalities in its custody are “exceedingly rare” and occur at a fraction of the rate of the US detained population as a whole.

Patel is the second person to die in ICE custody this week. He is the eighth such individual who died in the custody of ICE in 2017.

The recent deaths have drawn sharp criticism from immigrant rights activists who have long decried conditions in immigration detention centres and called on the government to close such facilities.

President Donald Trump has called for increasing detention as part of his crackdown on illegal immigration.