The trafficking of Nepalese women to Gulf countries with India acting as a corridor has created a nightmarish situation for law enforcement agencies in both India and Nepal.
Activists estimate that about 50 women are trafficked from Nepal to India every day. Post the 2015 earthquake, Nepal has become a source country for women trafficking.
The natural disaster left many vulnerable to traffickers, and the demand for Nepalese girls also shot up – not only in India, but the Gulf countries in particular.
On a regular basis, girls are trafficked to these Gulf nations via India, which acts as a transit point, and Delhi has emerged as a hub where these trafficked women are kept captive.
Swati Jai Hind, chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), stated that her team has conducted 535 rescue operations across Delhi since 2015, the year when she took charge, and 60 per cent of the women trafficked were from Nepal.
During three back-to-back rescue operations in the recent past from Munirka, Maidan Garhi and Paharganj in Delhi, DCW learnt that these women were trafficked from Nepal to be sent to the Middle East.
Sources in the Nepal border police told Mail Today that human traffickers are posing as legitimate employment brokers, before selling off Nepalese women to countries in the Gulf via India.
Victims, mostly from poor rural areas, are lured by traffickers with promises of good jobs either in Delhi or abroad. But once they are trapped by the traffickers, they are forced into prostitution.
– Reshma, activist working near Nepal border
Other activists who have conducted several raids and rescued Nepalese women said that some of these women were aware that they were being trafficked but were still ready to take the risk.
“Surprisingly, the family members and neighbours were found helping the traffickers,” they said, quoting the statements of the rescued girls.
Speaking to Mail Today, the investigators and the official at the border claimed that even if these vulnerable women are caught or detained, they are reluctant to share the details of the trafficking agents.
“Forget about disclosing the identity of the trafficker, they don’t even reveal details such as their planned destination, why they want to leave, who is helping them and what arrangements have been made with trafficking agents,” one of the investigators said, on conditions of anonymity.
“Lack of evidence, out-of-court settlements, threats from traffickers and taboo have kept prosecution and conviction rates low,” an activist said, requesting her identity to be not disclosed.
Meanwhile, an officer at Nepal border claimed that watching thousands of people crossing the border every day is not easy. When crossing the border by land, no documents at all are required. It is a situation ripe for traffickers to carry on with their nefarious activities.
As India has become a transit point and in most of the raids Nepalese girls are rescued, many Indian police officials blame the border force of the Nepal police for the unchecked trafficking of women.
Another officer at the Indo-Nepal border added that it is difficult for the police to send women, who they believe are being trafficked, back to Nepal without necessary evidence.
“Human traffickers and their agents come up with numerous ways to deceive the police while taking women from remote parts of the country across the border. Often, they instruct the women to say they are on a tour or going to a job,” this officer alleged.
Since the authorities do not ask for a passport for passage into India, traffickers keep the women’s passports and return them in New Delhi after completing the visa process.
In Delhi, they decide which countries the women will be sent to, how and when.
Many of them cross the border in full knowledge that they are being trafficked to the Gulf countries and it’s illegal. But their trust in the agents is such that they believe their ’employment agents’ are trying to help them escape from poverty back home
– Officer, at India-Nepal border
Previously, traffickers employed a variety of methods – sometimes physically hiding the girls as they crossed the border. But now, it’s carried out in the name of foreign employment, police claimed.
Women are being sold by the so-called agents of foreign employment agencies because they lack money, are illiterate, and unaware of what lies in store for them.
– Rishi Kant, Co-founder of NGO Shakti Vahini
There are some pockets in the national Capital that are notorious for keeping these trafficked Nepalese women as captives.
“Women are generally kept in Paharganj area, Lakshmi Nagar, Govindpuri or some remote areas in south-west Delhi. They are held captive for a few days before being sent to the Gulf after arranging for the visa,” said an activist.
She added that women were supplied mainly from the beauty parlours and massage centres run by Nepalese expats in Delhi.
Human traffickers and their agents run these beauty parlours in India as fronts to create the impression they are entrepreneurs. Thus, when the police raid these establishments, the traffickers say they are just running a legitimate business.
Quoting the confessional statement of a trafficker involved in smuggling Nepalese girls to the Gulf via India, a highly-placed source said that the gang members used to collect photographs of girls interested in travelling abroad for work and sent them to his clients in the UAE.
Police investigations show that human traffickers fix the price of women by sending photographs to potential buyers in the Gulf.
“Other traffickers have revealed that the sponsors sent a copy of the visa on their mobile phone. After sending the girls to the Gulf, they don’t keep track of them,” the police recorded traffickers saying.
According to the police, these girls are trafficked to Gulf countries including Oman, Malaysia, the UAE, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon.