Sunday, 21 July, 2024

Visit visa may be a gateway to human trafficking


By Purushottam P. Khatri
Kathmandu, Jan. 29: The Department of Foreign Employment raided Babystar International Manpower Company on January 4, 2021, after nine youths from Siraha on visit visas to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for employment were stranded.
After the documents were not found at the Manpower Office, the monitoring team reached the Royal Siraha Hotel and Guest House in Gaushala and seized two passports having visit visa stamps.
According to victim Afzal Miya, they were held hostage at the hotel for six days.
There are also many people in the UAE who are stranded on a visit visa. Birendra Chhetri of Dang has been stranded for 10 months. He was lured to the UAE by the manpower company where he had deposited Rs. 500,000 for a job in Dubai police.
A number of victims have returned to Nepal after getting stranded for many months in UAE and they are now registering complaint to the Department of Foreign Employment seeking compensation.
However, no matter how many problems there are, the number of people going to UAE and other labour destination countries on visit visas is not abating.
The government's data confirms that the number of youths being sent abroad has increased due to temptation in recent times.
Nepali youths who are ready to enter Europe, Afghanistan and other countries for employment are sent to UAE by collecting large amount of money from human traffickers.
According to the labour law, before going abroad for employment one has to get a labour permit, pay a fee to the Foreign Employment Welfare Fund and get term life insurance.
Once the process is completed, the manpower company and the employer are responsible for the problem. However, those seeking employment on a visit visa are responsible if they are cheated or have any other problems.
Although it is legal to go abroad on a visit visa, it is illegal to go abroad on a visit visa to work. However, apart from manpower companies, travel agencies and consultancies are also running the business of visit visa.
Kumar Dahal, director general of the Department of Foreign Employment, said the number of people going on visit visas has increased with the reopening of international flights that were closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
9,000 visited UAE in four months
The government's data confirms that the number of youths being sent abroad has increased due to temptation in recent times. Many Nepali youths are landing in the UAE illegally, dreaming of getting a 'working visa' within three months by going on a visit visa after being unable to find jobs in the country.
According to the Department of Immigration, from September 1 to December 31, 2020, 26,000 Nepalis went to different countries on visit visas, 9,000 of whom reached the UAE.
Director General of the Immigration Department Ramesh Kumar KC considered this number of Nepalis going to UAE for visit unnatural.
"How can we believe that 9,000 Nepalis went to the UAE during such a situation just for visit?" questioned KC.
He said it is becoming difficult to differentiate between going for a tour and using a visit visa for labour.
He said that even those who go for labour should not be stopped after submitting all the documents. "We have thoroughly checked the documents of those going to the UAE," he said. "Once everything is in order, we can't stop them."
According to KC, out of 425 people who were barred from flying abroad on visit visas by the Department, 200 had gone abroad managing additional documents as demanded by the Department to submit. It has been alleged that the human traffickers who used the visit visa as a weapon have set up a 'setting' at the immigration office in Tribhuvan International Airport.
Director General KC said that the Nepali embassy has written a letter to draw the attention of the Department after the number of people stranded on visit visas in the UAE increased. The Department of Foreign Employment has also sent a letter to the Department of Immigration after the complaints of those stranded in the UAE began being registered at the Department every day.
The Foreign Employment Businessmen's Association has also been saying that most of those who go on a visit visa are being asked to work instead of traveling.
DG KC said that discussions have been initiated with the concerned bodies to take steps to prevent human rights violations and human trafficking.
"We have proposed to make it compulsory to have periodic insurance of Rs. 1 million to Rs. 1.5 million for a visit visa," he said.
He said that discussions are underway with the insurance committee and non-life insurance companies to bring such insurance policies. He said the matter will be resolved in a few days.
He said that the source of the dollar he/she is carrying when traveling from Nepal would be strictly sought. "We will ask for clear documents from which bank, at what rate and when the dollar or foreign currency was exchanged," KC said. "I believe that this arrangement will prevent people from going abroad on visit visas for labour."
Most people who go on a visit visa for labour are found to be carrying illegally exchanged foreign currency.
According to the existing rules, the Immigration Department should allow the person carrying the proof of hotel booking, two-way air ticket, sponsorship letter and $1000 dollars to go without any hindrance.