“The Indian agent threatened and beat us up. Then local men came in, asked us for money, and beat us up,” one of the victims told police.
The traffickers had taken their passports and other identification, and threatened to extract their kidneys and sell them if they did not pay more. Though they did not reveal the amount they had spent, police estimate that it could be more than Rs 1.5 million each. Those rescued were devastated to learn they had not reached Bolivia after spending so much money.
After continuous harassment and beatings by traffickers, the Nepalis contacted their families, who informed police, triggering the rescue operation. Trafficking Bureau DSP Narahari Regmi became acquainted with a Malawi police officer when he was in the country on a UN peacekeeping mission, and used this informal channel to coordinate with police. Three Nepali women who had been taken to dance bars in Malawi were also rescued a few months ago.
According to the bureau, there may be more than 100 Nepalis stranded in countries around the world, after being trafficked. Six Nepalis stranded in Indonesia for nearly six months were returned home this week.
They told police that they paid Rs2.8-3 million each to traffickers. The police are in the process of rescuing eight others from Ethiopia, who have been there for seven months. Some of them still hope to make it to the US, while others are looking for ways to return to Nepal.
The route to the US through India, Russia or Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala or Mexico used to be popular with traffickers. They would try to lengthen the journey so that they could extort more money from victims.
Now, other routes through the Latin American countries of Suriname, Guyana or Colombia are more frequently used. Bolivia is popular because it offers visa on arrival for Nepalis. From there, traffickers try to sneak people into Mexico. In fact, Interpol and US security have now placed Bolivia’s immigration department on their watchlist.
Janakraj Sapkota in Kantipur,