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Foreign criminals: Nepal’s growing security challenge

Foreign criminals: Nepal’s growing security challenge

In the past Nepali month of Chaitra (mid-March to mid-April), authorities arrested 28 Bangladeshi nationals from various parts of the country. 

Among them, 18 had overstayed their visa and were illegally residing in Nepal. Ten others were apprehended for taking hostage and torturing several men from their own country at a Kathmandu-based hotel. They had brought the victims to Nepal with the promise of sending them to countries like the US, Canada, Italy, and Croatia. The accused had also taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the victims. 

That same month, police arrested four Pakistani men for confining six Sri Lankans in two hotels in Kathmandu. According to Metropolitan Police Range spokesperson Ravindra Regmi, Pakistani and Sri Lankan agents collaborated to transport the hostages to Kathmandu on the pretext of flying them to Europe and other destinations. 

“In the process, they received substantial sums from them. Six Sri Lankan citizens paid 7.5m Sri Lankan rupees to the agents, with additional payments in USD,” says Regmi.

Similarly on Feb 15, a team from the District Police Office, Kathmandu, rescued 11 Indian citizens from captivity near Ratopul, Kathmandu. Eight individuals who held them captive are in custody, having brought the victims to Kathmandu, falsely promising easy access to the US via Nepal.

These incidents highlight a recent surge in crimes committed by foreign nationals in Nepal. The lenient arrival visa policy has attracted foreign criminals, who engage in human trafficking, drug smuggling, murder, theft, and fraud. 

According to the records of Nepal Police Headquarters, in the last 3.5 years, 480 foreign nationals have been involved in crimes in Nepal. From fiscal year 2077/78 BS to the present fiscal year 2080/81 BS. Among them, the majority are Indian nationals (192), followed by Chinese (84), and Bangladeshi (32) nationals. 

Gokarna Khanal, information officer at the Department of Prison Management, says there are 1,384 foreign nationals in prisons across the country. Of them, 1,204 are Indian nationals, 24 are Chinese nationals, three are Bangladeshi nationals, and 12 are Pakistani nationals. There are also eight Thais, three Filipinos, 13 South Africans, 12 Sudanese, and two American nationals.

Former Inspector General Thakur Gyawali says Nepal—where visa processes are extremely easy, and visas can even be obtained at the airport—is becoming a safe space for international criminals. Gyawali argues that besides easy arrival visa policy, Nepal’s security system itself is weak. He says due to legal loopholes, crimes committed by foreign nationals go unpunished.

The lack of robust monitoring and cooperation between agencies compounds the problem. Gyawali says the government’s data is not fully digitized online. Data related to criminal activities is shared with Nepal Police. However, economic data is shared with other entities, and data related to foreign arrivals is managed by another agency. 

“This lack of cooperation makes it difficult to monitor the activities of foreigners who enter Nepal,” Gyawai says. “We don’t have complete records of foreigners coming to Nepal. No agency is monitoring their activities. Where are they staying? How do they manage financially? Where do they get cash from?” 

If technology is updated and upgraded, Gyawali believes not only foreigners but also Nepali individuals can be deterred from committing crimes. 

The trend of foreigners getting involved in crimes is not new in Nepal, says Bhim Prasad Dhakal, spokesperson for Nepal Police. But he does not agree that Nepal’s law enforcement agencies are weak or ineffective.

“Compared to other countries, Nepal’s security is strong. No matter who or how one commits crimes, they can’t escape the police,” he says. “Also, it is not right to say that professional criminals come to Nepal and commit crimes.”

Security expert Prof. Indra Adhikari proposes enhanced scrutiny of tourist visas and digitization of foreign nationals’ activities. “A balance between tourism promotion and security measures is essential to curb criminal activities,” he says.

Adhikari is against vilifying the security agencies for increased crime rates. In comparison to the past, he mentions that the occurrence of serious crimes has decreased, indicating that the security agencies have become modern, efficient, robust, and trustworthy. 

“Criminals are always a step ahead of the law and security agencies. The number of crimes is increasing not only here but also in every country. Nepal Police is also vigilant and sensitive regarding the involvement of foreign nationals in crimes and criminal behavior. Impartial investigations are being conducted.”

On April 7, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a directive to all 77 district administration offices across the country for increased surveillance of foreign nationals, emphasizing accountability for illegal activities. 

According to Narayan Prasad Bhattarai, spokesperson for the ministry, surveillance of foreign nationals entering all districts has been increased. 

“No one, whether domestic or foreign, is exempt from engaging in illegal activities while staying in Nepal. They will be brought under the legal framework,” he says.