Dreaming of a better future a girl in her teens from the eastern Nepal decides to venture a foreign land in search of a job that finally lands her in a destination that in itself has a history of victimized maids. She does not even know how necessary is her identity card i. e. a citizenship certificate, which is issued to any bonafide children of Nepali citizens, who have attained the age of 16 or above. Had she been aware of this, she would not have been lured so easily to make a foreign travel using someone else’s passport.
Such events have been taking place almost every day when about 1000-1500 Nepali workers queue up at the Tribhuwan International Airport to seek foreign employment. How unresponsive have been the successive governments in Nepal to the basic needs of the countrymen is well substantiated by the unprecedented long lines of poor workers, most of whom are totally ignorant of the travel documents they are carrying with them.
About a month earlier this writer was at the checking counter of the airport due to his own business, when I saw two Nepali workers with their travel papers but were quite perplexed as to where to stand up for the line. I heard one of the airlines staff members shouting at them saying that they were in the wrong queue. Looking at them I felt pity as any human being and tried to see their air tickets to see if I could be of any help. They were boarding al Arabia plane but not knowing the right counter they were loitering here and there. Finally, I located the counter and helped them queue up for their departure.
This is just an example how our workers, who are compelled to pay exorbitant sums of money even to a destination in the Gulf region to the manpower agencies, the so-called saviors of Nepal’s tattered economy claiming to have facilitated inflows of billions of currency in remittances, are confused and get lost at the airport before they enter into any plane.
Not surprisingly, majority of uneducated, untrained workers and mainly the female ones face misbehavior at the immigration desk because the officials associated with the Department of Immigration have been found to be the most corrupt as per the findings of some journalists. The rapidity with which the personnel at this department are transferred is in itself an evidence that money matters and many of our civil servants in administrative service would vie for this office and the airport posting more than tax and custom offices. Bhansar is no more a sansar for many government officials as in the past the reason being the Department of Immigration has surpassed all other postings.
An annoying illustration of harassment of our female workers at the airport is that many of them are prevented from boarding the plane despite the fact that they hold valid passport, valid visa and the air tickets. Only two weeks earlier I was at the Department of Passports in connection with my application for a new document. While I was waiting at one of the director’s office for my passport, a lady in her 30s was sobbing and asking the officer in the room to write a letter certifying that the hand-written passport in her hand was nobody else’s but hers. She had been returned from the airport by the immigration. What an astonishing appeal?
When questioned by the passport director as to why she needed another letter, she replied that the officer at the immigration desk told her that she should have another accompanying document to prove that the passport belonged to her.
Question arises how long the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the lone government authority to issue passports to Nepali citizens, can continue writing such unnecessary letters certifying the passports their government has issued before. Should the government be required to provide another evidence just to substantiate the authenticity of a document already issued unless otherwise proved necessary?
The above incident cannot be rare because the immigration personnel seem to have been misusing their power for pocketing money. Unless they have the evidence to question the veracity of any traveller’s passport, there is no reason whatsoever that they do not allow the genuine person to make his or her foreign travel. By unnecessarily harassing the innocent and illiterate workers and forcing them to cancel their flights and asking them to visit the department of passport to bring another letter, which might be another ordeal for them, a great injustice has been meted out to the workers on daily basis.
The issue of immigration is highly sensitive and thus requires to be handled efficiently. Without proper training and developing professional skills, such duties cannot be performed satisfactorily. Perhaps, the lack of such prerequisites has compromised the performance of our immigration officials and consequently, Nepal’s international image has also been damaged.
How inefficient and incompetent are our immigration department officials is proven by their utter negligence shown last March in issuing a relations visa to the grandson of the writer. The applicant holds an American passport which was expiring on November 26, 2012 but the department gave him the visa up to March, 2013. What more instance of sluggishness do we need than this? Either they are not even able to read the particulars given in any foreign passport or they are just negligent to their assigned duties.
Amid such history of lethargy and carelessness on the part of immigration department comes the heartrending news of a Nepali female worker, who landed at the airport returning from Saudia Arabia and got robbed of what she had earned during her whole foreign stay and more humiliatingly got raped too.
If there exists any government for this victim of robbery followed by rape at the hands of government officials to pay whose salaries we all have been paying taxes, then instant justice be given to her by compensating her fully and bringing all the culprits besides the Nayab Subba to book as per the law of the land without any further delay. Justice delayed is justice denied.