95 fake Nepali passports seized in 2011

Shreejana Shrestha

Hem Kumari Pandey is an Indian national but holds a Nepali passport. If her statement to the Department of Immigration (DoI) is to be believed, she managed to get the passport just by paying Rs 30,000. 

According to her statement recorded by DoI investigators, a broker supplied her the passport to go to Kuwait. The passport was originally issued in the name of one Nisha Adhikari whom Pandey has never met. 

She said the broker substituted Adhikari´s photo in the passsport with her own. Arrested at Tribhuvan International Airport on November 24 while returning from the Gulf, Pandey is now in DoI custody. 

In another case recorded at DoI, the passport of one Gita Ghimire was found to have been sold to Ambika Sapkota of Sindhupalchowk. Sapkota spent just Rs 10,000 to get the passport. She also has been arrested. 

These two cases are just the tip of the iceberg and show how hand-written passports are being misused by both Nepali and foreign nationals. 

The number of fake Nepali passports-- mostly issued for working visas in Gulf countries-- registered at DoI this year is almost 50 percent more than last year.

According to DoI data obtained by Republica, 95 people since January including Nepalis, Indian living along the border who are similar in appearance to Nepalis and some Bangladeshis have been interrogated for using fake Nepali passports. The number of fake passports seized was just 48 in 2010. 

“We have seen a significant rise in the number of fake Nepali passport this year compared to last year,” said Ganesh Bahadur Adhikari, an officer at DoI. He informed that most people caught with fake passports are Nepalis.

It has emerged that even after learning that people are being sent abroad with fake passports, the authorities do not file any case against the broker or agent. Interrogation of victims by DoI suggests that most of them don´t have adequate information. 

“Some of them know that they are being sent abroad with fake passports while some others are quite ignorant. And most of the victims we caught can´t give detailed information about the brokers who provided them the fake passports,” Adhikari said. 

According to him, poverty and illiteracy are the major factors in the use of fake passports while hand-written passport are themselves a problem.

“Hand-written passports can be easily altered -- by changing the photo- -and we can´t expect the incidence of fake passports to go down as long as hand-written passports are valid,” he said, adding, “We don´t have advanced technology to check passports in Nepal.”

The UV light system, which was introduced three years ago, is used to check passports at Tribhuwan International Airport while there is only one USC machine-- considered advanced technology-- in Nepal, at DoI.

Published on: 10 December 2011 | Republica

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