Human Traffickers dumping Nepalis to Afghan jails.doc

Human traffickers luring Nepalis to Afghan jails
Dubai a conduit for human traffickers

SIGDEL, K. R., KATHMANDU, APRIL 27
With lax monitoring and confused legal arrangements governing the manpower trade to Afghanistan, thousands of Nepalis continue to be duped and illegally trafficked to the war-torn country annually. Officials aware of the illegal trafficking racket said some underground networks of traffickers in Kathmandu, Dubai, Kabul and New Delhi have been operating the racket for quite a long time making the Dubai airport their main transit.

An unofficial estimate is that there could be around 15,000 to 20,000 unskilled Nepali labourers, most of them illegal, currently working in Afghanistan under critical conditions, many of them in jails and out of contact with their families back home. The Nepal government, however, remains largely unaware of the situation. As Nepal has no diplomatic presence in the country, any kind of support is virtually inaccessible to the Nepalis in trouble there.

Roughly 15,000 Nepali workers illegal
Govt record shows only 4286 as legal
Traffickers charge Rs. 2.5 lakhs per head
Dubai and New Delhi, main transit points

Officials at the Nepal Embassy in Pakistan, which oversees Afghanistan, say the situation of Nepali workers in the country is disturbing and it is getting harder for them to oversee the country form Islamabad.

“We have received information that Nepalis get trafficked in hoards to Afghanistan by agents via Dubai on duplicate visa. Most of them get caught in Kandhar and are sent to jail,” said Durga Bhandari, Deputy Chief of Mission at Nepali Embassy in Islamabad. “Nobody knows how many Nepalis are in Afghan jails. We issue travel documents for their release and return to home only when we are informed.”

Statistics at the Ministry of Labour and Transport Management (MoLTM) show that it has issued permissions to only 4286 Nepalis for employment in Afghanistan since 2002, which is way too low than the current estimate of 15,000 to 20,000. “The gap indicates, there are a large number of illegal Nepali migrants, who could be working under exploitative conditions,” said Bhandari.

Some of the victims of this trafficking racket, who were interviewed by the Post, here in Kathmandu, said they paid up to 250,000 to local agents who promised employment in Afghanistan with wages as high as US$ 1000 per months.

Krishna (name changed), 25, one of the victims who recently returned from Dubai after being duped by an agent said he paid Rs. 180,000 to an agent for the job. “I flew to Dubai fully assured that I will be sent to Afghanistan within a week. But unfortunately, I was badly duped. I waited for two weeks inside the airport hiding from the security only to return home at last,” he said. “I’m making a second attempt through another agent as I have no courage to return home broke and face the moneylenders.”

In most of the cases, agents here in Kathmandu tell their clients that “the other party” in Dubai would receive them and make arrangement for their travel to Afghanistan. “But, in most of the cases, no such party comes to receive,” said Ramesh, another victim, who returned after waiting two weeks in Dubai airport. He said he was duped by a Kathmandu-based agent named Nau Maya Ghimire in collusion with her Dubai-based husband.

There are, however, some instances where some of the illegally trafficked workers get placements in well paying companies and thus legalise their work. In an average, a successful unskilled worker fetches at least US$ 1000 monthly, according to officials. “It’s only one lucky person out of ten that succeeds” said Ramesh. “It is the stories of those successful few that are luring many youths to risk their money and lives.”

The Nepal embassy in Islamabad said in the last couple of weeks, it received information of arrests of about one and a half dozen illegal Nepali migrants in Afghanistan. As it has no presence in Afghanistan, the Nepal embassy is working with ICRC, Cabul in helping out the Nepalis in trouble.

Manpower agents here in Kathmandu say more and more Nepalis will continue to suffer unless the government clears the confusion in the labour trade to Afghanistan and bring the traffickers to book. While the government says it has permitted sending workers in security companies, the manpower agencies are unaware of it.

“The government seems to have been issuing work permits to Afghanistan secretly, or else we could have known,” said Kumud Khanal, General Secretary of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA). “Such practices have pushed many Nepalis to opt for illegal routes.”

However, according MoLT Spokesman Purna Chandra Bhattarai, the government has never banned sending laborer to Afghanistan. “The government has been issuing work permits to Afghanistan. Manpower agencies can send workers on security sector,” said Bhattarai.
(Originally Published at TKP: http://www.ekantipur.com/2011/04/29/editors-pick/human-traffickers-luring-nepalis-to-afghan-jails/333235.html)

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