Lost and not found

Janak Raj Sapkota in Kantipur, 31 July

“For seven days we walked through dense forest without much food or water. We were on the verge of death,” recounts Moti Gurung of Ilam, who was among a group of Nepalis being taken by human traffickers to Greece via Turkey. Gurung says he lost contact with fellow-Nepali Nabin Tiwari during the trek, and he has been missing for seven months.

“Our Pakistani agent allowed us one call and we spoke to Aashish Ghimire about Nabin’s condition but they didn’t do anything,” says Gurung, who last saw Tiwari while following a railway track as the trafficker put them on a train.

A Kathmandu-based middleman named Aashish Ghimire had lured Gurung, Tiwari and one other Nepali with a promise to smuggle them into Europe via Turkey and Greece where they could make a better living. Each were charged up to Rs500,000 and then handed to a Pakistani national named Mohammad.

Nepalis going to Turkey via India on tourist visas to find their way to Europe are being stranded and duped by human traffickers along the way. In some cases, individuals who pay anywhere from Rs1.1 to 1.5 million to enter Greece via Turkey have risked their lives. Gurung and his team were detained for 25 days for illegal entry before being deported back to Nepal.

There have been 37 complaints against human traffickers, smuggling Nepalis to Greece at the Central Bureau of Investigation, who have been swindled of Rs25 million.

“I spent 900,000 but didn’t make a penny,” says Tikaram Bhattari who left for Turkey via India with Tiwari but was unable to enter Greece.

According to DSP Manohar Bhatta, a cross-border human trafficking racket is luring Nepalis, with dozens of agents promising to take them to Europe. So far six agents, one consultancy and two manpower agencies have been found to be involved. Of the 37 cases registered at the Bureau, 14 agents are linked with the scam but only 9 have been arrested so far.

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