A number of migrant workers interviewed by the Post claimed immigration and “other officials” at the TIA took bribe through employment agents in return for allowing the workers a “safe passage.” They said the amount, which the agents refer to as the “setting fees,” has become almost compulsory for female workers travelling to Gulf countries.
One 22-year-old woman from Nawalparasi, who requested anonymity, said her agent made a prior “setting” with immigration officials for her entry while she left for Kuwait to work as a domestic help last year.
The official did not stop her from entering, despite the fact that she was carrying a forged passport. “I paid Rs 110,000 altogether, incluing the Rs 10,000 as setting fees,” she said.
Another woman from Chitwan said she paid Rs 15,000 to immigration officials through her agents. “I had no option but to pay the bribe for my safety, as my agents said the officials will not allow me to leave,” she said.
A report released recently by Amnesty International also said TIA officials take Rs 10,000 to 60,000 from each woman migrant worker to allow them to leave. AI cited 100 cases documented by Pourkahi, a Nepali NGO that works for migrant workers.
Muna Gautam, who coordinates a rescue house run by Pourakhi at the TIA, told the Post that her team has documented around 400 such cases in the last five years. She said mostly women are asked to pay the “setting fees”.
DIG Narayan Bastakoti at the TIA said police have arrested a few people “with evidence” in the past. He, however, claimed no police official has taken bribes in any form till now.
“We have arrested all those who were found involved in such practices. We have punished them and will punish anyone, including police officers, if found guilty,” he said.
Bastakoti said the presence of many stakeholders inside the airport makes it hard for the police to trace such crime. He said his department is doing everything possible to uncover such crime.
“Recruiting agents often bargain with workers for the setting fees and the amount can vary from one person to the other,” Muna told the Post.
There has been an unprecedented rise in the number of workers going abroad through irregular channels in recent years.
A study commissioned by the Ministry of Labour and Transport management and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 40 to 50 percent of the total number of migrant workers went abroad through irregular channels. A separate study claims that 80 percent undocumented workers are females.
Officials at the Department of Immigration refused to comment on the issue. by Roshan Sedhai from ekantipur