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Visit visa trafficking cases on rise

Visit visa trafficking cases on rise

“How much did you pay the agent?” asked the officer. The woman hesitated for a moment, and said, “Not even a single rupee.” Unconvinced, the officer asserted, “There is no reason to lie.” She stood her ground, “I’m not lying.” she replied. “I was told that I wouldn’t have to pay anything. A distant relative had arranged a visa for me. I didn’t even pay for the air ticket, nor for my stay in Kathmandu.” 

This is the conversation between Superintendent of Police (SP) Milan KC from Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office and a woman from Rupandehi, who had been caught trying to fly to Dubai using fake documents.  

A small group of women are waiting outside the office, with nervous looks on their faces. They are under investigation for trying to fly out of the country with forged documents. One of them is a 27-year-old woman from Dhading. She was caught with fake documents at the airport. Her plan was to go to Dubai on a visit visa and from there fly to Malta. Her academic certificate and police report were forged. 

Back in October, it was revealed that a woman who had been trafficked to Oman via Dubai had been raped by her agent Navin Rai. Rai had taken her to Muscat with a forged labor permit. The woman is currently under the care of the Nepali Embassy in Oman. Rai has been detained by the Omani police. 

Following the incident, the Immigration Office at the Tribhuvan International Airport has launched an internal investigation. Gogan Bahadur Hamal, the chief immigration officer, said the employee responsible for stamping on fake documents is being investigated.

According to the Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office, it has received a total of 1,200 passports between Oct 6 and Dec 1 in connection to a forgery case. SP Rabindra Regmi, spokesperson for the office, said Nepal Police has arrested 22 agents who were involved in creating fake documents and enticing people to go abroad.  

In recent times, the government has intensified crackdowns on those intending to go abroad on visit visas. It has been revealed that around 80 percent of the total applicants applying for a visit visa to Dubai are individuals intending to go to destinations such as Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Malta, and Saudi Arabia for employment.

SP Regmi said many women are becoming victims of human trafficking by trying to go abroad for employment by using visit visas. 

“There is a big network of agents involved in forging educational certificates and bank statements. The women usually pay their agent up to AED 2,000 AED or nearly Rs 72,000.” 

Police investigation has found that many Nepali women who have gone to various countries, particularly in the Gulf states, using visit visas are facing various problems, such as labor exploitation, abuse and nonpayment of salary.Majority of these women are aged 20 to 35. 

“Agents lure Nepali women with various excuses to send them to various Gulf countries for free. They entice women who are less educated, single, and from lower-income groups, promising them higher income," said SP KC.

Exploitation of these women start at home, with the agent charging them exorbitant amounts of money under various pretexts. 

Deputy Superintendent of Police Govinda Panthi said some women have paid up to Rs 300,000 to their agents just so they can fly to Dubai on visit visas. “These women are being charged huge amounts of money in the name of visa processing, medical check-ups, accommodation, and food. The sad thing is that they are willing to pay the amount.”

While authorities have intensified surveillance at the airport to prevent innocent women from being trafficked in the name of overseas employment, it has neither deterred the agents nor the women who are willing to risk it all to fly abroad for employment. 

Since October, around 1200 women intending to go abroad on visit visas have been stopped at the airport. Many of them were found with forged paperworks.   

Prem Prasad Dahal, spokesperson for the Immigration Department, said even though the Nepal government has imposed restrictions on Nepali women going to Gulf countries for domestic work, many women are still going there through illegal means.

“Of course, the government is actively involved in protecting Nepali women from being trafficked to Gulf countries and ensuring their safety, but there are many challenges in preventing everyone from being trafficked.”