KATHMANDU: The trend of Nepali nationals, aspiring to work in foreign countries on visit visas, being returned back from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) is on the rise.
Those suspected of being victims of human trafficking and those using fake labor permits are being returned on a daily basis. The Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau deployed at the airport has seized and returned 2,429 passports as of April 10.
On April 10, altogether 83 women and four men who were going on visit visas to different countries were sent back by the bureau. According to the bureau, 250 women and men were stopped from going abroad on visit visas in February, 557 women in March and 612 men and women in April.
According to the bureau, many of those who reached the airport to go for foreign employment did not even know which country they were heading towards and what work they were going to do. Officials of the bureau said that those people lacked knowledge and skills required in the destination country and they also did not know the language of the country they were going to.
According to the bureau, those with fake bank statements, work permits, visit visas and educational certificates will be returned back. Especially those who are going to different countries on visit visas as domestic workers illegally have been returned in this way.
The government has banned visiting the Gulf countries on visit visas. But human traffickers send Nepali workers to the Gulf countries from Tribhuvan International Airport on a daily basis.
It has been found that traffickers are sending Nepalis to the Gulf countries to work on visit visas by financially luring airport immigration officials, police and airline staff. Sources claim that smugglers are sending workers to Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries on visit visas. The bureau’s SP Narahari Regmi said that the Nepali youths who are sent to the Gulf on visit visas are compelled to hide for work because it is not legally allowed to do so.
Kavre’s Manmaya Tamang is one of those who was turned back from the airport while going abroad on a visit visa. She says that she was going to Kuwait for work on a visit visa to support her family due to her husband’s lack of income, but she did not succeed.
Tamang, 28 is a mother of two children. She had been meeting her household expenses by smashing gravels into aggregates and was about to go abroad in the hope of earning better. But the bureau stopped her because she was found to be going to Kuwait for work by misusing the visit visa.
She said that many people from her village have already reached Kuwait with the help of the agent, and she felt sad for being turned back from the airport. She said, “I had a flight to Kuwait at 10:30 PM on April 9, but all my documents were taken away by the airport police and I was not allowed to travel abroad.”
She said that the police informed her that she was returned back because her documents were fake. Tamang said that she did not know what to do even though she was about to go to Kuwait.
The agent said that as soon as she would reach the airport of Kuwait, someone would come to pick her up and she would get a job instantly, according to Tamang. Tamang says that she was ready to go abroad for the bright future of her children.
Kumarimaya Thing from Makwanpur, who was lured into foreign employment because it would not cost a single penny to go abroad, said that the agent had assured to make all the arrangements from passport to other documentation work until she reached the destination country. She was told that she did not even have to worry about her accommodation in Kathmandu and reached the airport on April 9 at 11:30 pm to fly to Dubai. The agent also took four other women in a taxi and dropped them at the airport.
After entering the airport, the police interrogated us and asked about the destination country. Based on the conversation with the agent, she said that she is going to visit Dubai for a month. “But the police sent me back home after confiscating my documents and passport saying that I was going to Dubai for household work,” she said. “Many other women were also sent back that day.”
She said that even though she wanted to go to the Gulf countries due to compulsion, she could not do so. The mother of two children, who got married at a young age, said that she decided to go abroad because it was difficult to meet the household expenses. “My husband used to spend the money I earned on alcohol. He used to beat me,” she said.
Thing said that she will now work as a daily-wage laborer and educate her children. She said that it was only after reaching the airport that she learnt that her acquaintance was planning to send her abroad on a visit visa.
By abusing the visit visa, agents continue to send Nepali citizens to the restricted countries for domestic work. The bureau informs those who are going abroad for work on a visit visa about the high risk they might face and returns them from the airport.
“We have been advising people to go abroad only by staying within the standards set by the government and completing the due legal processes,” said SP Regmi of the bureau. He said that it came to light from the investigation that a person working as an agent in a Gulf country contacted a Nepali agent and searched for people.
“It has been seen that the agent searches for people with low economic status and makes passports, pays for transportation from the village to Kathmandu, pays for hotel expenses, and buys airline tickets,” he said.
The agent collects all the expenses from them only after they reach the Gulf countries. SP Regmi said that those who go to the Gulf countries on visit visas without learning the language spoken in the respective countries and without skills will have to endure torture, sexual exploitation, physical and mental pressure.
“Many people who suffered on visit visas have reported that they had to be rescued,” said Regmi.
Under Nepal’s law, domestic workers cannot be taken to countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Lebanon. However, the process of sending workers to those countries has not stopped. The Ministry of Home Affairs had formed a task force to recommend measures to solve the problems arising from going abroad on visit visas. The task force had given suggestions along with the report according to which only those who have a record of traveling abroad at least once, and those who have visited Gulf countries twice are eligible to go abroad again.
Similarly, only people who have been in a foreign country for at least two years are eligible for traveling on a visit visa. In order to go abroad, one must have at least a formal education of higher secondary level or technical-professional skills and have a good knowledge of the language spoken in the destination country.
Similarly, employees/persons who are recommended by the mission in the destination country with certified documents, employees/individuals going for government work, representatives of banks and financial organizations doing international business and international non-governmental organizations, representatives of commercial organizations importing and exporting goods in Nepal, owners/businessmen of commercial companies/firms are eligible for a visit visa.
It is mentioned in the report that one can go abroad on a visit visa if one goes with relatives and on the invitation and sponsorship from someone from the destination country.
In the past, those who wanted to go to the Gulf countries on a visit visa could not be stopped if they showed USD 1,000, return plane tickets and hotel booking documents. After receiving complaints of violence against women workers who went to Gulf countries on visit visas, the government banned them from going abroad on visit visas.