Nepal becomes new transit point for migrants on their way to Arab countries
by Kalpit Parajuli
Nepalis’ good reputation as workers in Arab countries sees Indians and Bangladeshis forced to change their identity after falling into the hands of human traffickers. Some 1,200 Bangladeshis are stopped trying to emigrate to Arab countries on fake Nepali passports costing to US$ 5,000.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Human traffickers are taking advantage of Nepal’s political instability in order to use the mountain nation as a new transit point for migrant workers and refugees. Kathmandu police recently stopped more than 1,200 Bangladesh nationals trying to use Nepal in order to travel to Arab countries on fake Nepali passports. Local sources said that traffickers demanded US$ 4,000 to 5,000 per document. Everything came to light when racket kingpin Mohhamad Saibuddin was caught by police with a group of migrants hiding in a Kathmandu house.

Nepalis are considered good workers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Local companies often facilitate their immigration. For human traffickers, this means forcing migrant workers from India and Bangladesh to accept a fake Nepali passport before going to Arab countries.

“When I refused to accept a fake Nepali passport, they assaulted me, beat me up,” Anwar Hussain, a worker from Bangladesh, told AsiaNews.

As the traffickers prepared the fake papers, he and others were kept hidden in a Kathmandu home, taught Nepali and told to say they were from Nepal if they were ever discovered.

“This international racket has become a threat because of our political instability,” Nepal’s Home Affairs Minister Bhim Rawal said. “However, we will bring them to justice with the help of the international community.”

In 2008, Nepal became a democratic republic following ten years of civil war between the military and Maoist rebels, which led to the abolition of the centuries-old monarchy.

Elections that year were won by the Maoists led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda. He resigned however in May 2009 because of the military’s failure to incorporate Maoist fighters into its ranks.

The standoff between the two has not abated; instead, it has brought the country to the brink of another crisis. The political situation has negatively affected the economy, pushing a rising number of Nepalis to leave, and this has favour illegal activities.

On 28 May, parliament approved an additional delay before approving the country’s new constitution as a result of continued strikes by the Maoists and tensions within the ruling coalition government.