Nepali Times Asian Paints
Lost in migration


SAFE HOUSE: Victims of immigration fraud are often jailed abroad. In the picture below, a police officer glances at passports seized in a raid

The holding cell at Maharajganj Police Station in central Kathmandu is dark, austere and cramped with men. Handcuffs hang from the blue-steel door, as if to remind the inmates of the severe limits imposed on their freedom.

When he left home in search of a better future nine months ago, Kamal Khan of Bhola, Bangladesh, had no idea he would end up here. Kamal, the eldest son of a village muezzin, had been led to believe he was going to Iraq as a tailor. But after arriving in Nepal, Kamal's recruiters told him he would be staying "for a few days" before going on to Baghdad. Those days stretched into months, before the Nepal Police picked up Kamal in a pre-dawn raid on 26 May.

Inspector Praveen Pokharel, whose temperament is as sunny as his holding cells are dark, appeared to sympathise. "We arrested 12 Bangladeshis," he said. "Some of them have valid tourist visas, so we will let them go. But this guy's visa has expired. They say they paid a lot of money to agents to get to Arab countries. That's too bad they won't be going to any Arab country from here."

The plight of people like Kamal Khan fits a broad pattern of deception where many overseas job seekers are being left in the lurch in Nepal by unscrupulous recruiting agents. In most cases, the recruiters a nexus of Bangladeshi and Nepali agents lured Bangladeshis by promising to arrange work using Nepali passports, allowing them to get around bans and quotas on Bangladeshis imposed by host countries like Malaysia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

It is feared that hundreds of Bangladeshis could be in limbo in and around Kathmandu after being duped by recruiters. Many would-be migrants are ending up behind bars for immigration offenses, while others face the daunting prospect of returning home with nothing but their debts Deputy Superintendent of Police Deepak Thapa, in charge of the immigration fraud case, claimed: "According to our information, there are more than 1,000 Bangladeshi citizens awaiting Nepali passports in Kathmandu."

The Bangladesh Embassy in Nepal acknowledged that such incidents were on the rise. "Several such cases have been brought to our attention," said Emdadul Haque, First Secretary, Consular section. "We get involved and try to help the victims. We have also written to the authorities in Dhaka to take action."

Detained Bangladeshi nationals said there are several establishments in the Bagbajar and Koteswor areas that are routinely used as 'safe houses' by recruiters. Kamal Khan, who remained in Kathmandu for nine months as he waited to fly to Iraq, was eventually given a Nepali passport (No.2548166) that gives his name as Mamtaj Ansari, from Harinagara, Sunsari, Nepal.

Khan was joined by 11 other Bangladeshis recruited by the same group. They were housed in squalid conditions in Bagbajar. Tensions often ran high. After a fist-fight broke out between recruiters and migrant workers on 26 May, the police, acting on an anonymous tip, arrested 12 Bangladeshis.

Khan said he had been recruited by an agent named Saifuddin, who was also picked up in the raid. Although Nepali police officers seem to believe they have captured the kingpin of the racketeers, The Daily Star's investigation indicates that he is only a cog in an elaborate network of agents and sub-agents.

The Nepali authorities are eager for success in the fight against immigration scams, following earlier allegations of high-level involvement in passport fraud. Bachchu Ram KC, a foreign ministry official, was arrested in January for providing Nepali passports to foreigners. Shortly afterwards, Nepal's foreign minister Sujata Koirala sacked her principal personal secretary Bharat Sapkota for alleged involvement in the same scandal.

Despite tough rhetoric, few agents have been punished for ripping off overseas job seekers. Experts say obtaining a conviction in overseas fraud cases would require a high degree of coordination between national law enforcement agencies. They recommend a raft of measures including stern action against dishonest agents and greater vigilance at airports to discourage passport scams.

But preventive measures can only go so far. "Ultimately, the government and the private sector must work together to expand legal avenues for the outflow of manpower," said Dr Mokaddem Hossain, professor of sociology at Dhaka University. "When legal routes dry up, people tend to try unorthodox methods."

Meanwhile, Kamal Khan has been deported from Nepal, and arrived in Dhaka after an arduous overland trip through India. For him, the migrant dream has already turned into a nightmare.

"I didn't eat for two days," he said. "I even had to sell my watch to pay for transportation. Now I dread facing my family in Bhola. My father sold a piece of land to send me abroad. What am I going to say to him?"

Copyright (R) 2010

Long journey home

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Cycle city

1. Nepali Dai

 Real Nepalese should not feel sad with this story, but feel upset and enlightened, because these are not the hopeless and sad Bangladeshis, but truly opportunistic individuals who are willing to jeopardize Nepali society in the long run, and create a more diluted and corrupt society. This article also shows the mass migration of Bangladeshis to Nepal, and since they are already securing our citizenships they will soon claim their rights and religious freedoms in Nepal specially Durbar Marg. However, this is not the time for all the Nepalese to feel sad or sorry for these illegal immigrants, but to strengthen our borders and clean our act from head to toe to stop these types of tragedy. This article in deed gives us vignettes of bigger picture of our broken system with serious future identity crisis for all of us Nepalese (true). I strongly suggest that the police authorities and administration should take stringent action against these perpetrators and must serve the jail time for fraud and corruption to set an example. These people deserve jail for sure, but Nepal must wake up!!! What is going on?

2. raj sharama
To the coment above, Who do you mean by perpetrator? The poor bangladeshi who is in jail? He was just lured by some nepali and bangli thugs. Do you agree with Iraqis who thought our 12 innocent nepalese who got murdered in Iraq were perpetratoor?

3. Sima

To Nepali Dai,

Why should NOT Nepalese feel sad or sorry for these people? We also have millions of people working abroad or trying hard to work abroad abd being cheated by their dalals. These poor Bangaldeshis have faced the same fate. This is just another example of what people do in desparation, and how some selfish people exploit them.

The who need to wake up is the Government and start addressing all the issues that are related to this. Will they ever do, that is the big question.

4. Deepak P
At one point of time i felt like i am reading a US immigration news; Nepal being USA and Bangladesh being Mexico.  

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)