Myanmar emerging as a transit hub for trafficking Nepali girls

Kathmandu, February 8

Many of them said they had little idea about their final destination, but knew they would pass through the newly found “safest” transit points en-route: Myanmar and Dubai. Before that each would have to get down to the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur.

A select few made it to Manipur’s capital of Imphal by air, while the vast majority travelled several hours by land, at the end of several weeks of wait in Delhi.

“I was flown from Delhi to Imphal on January 18,” said Champa, 22, now sheltered at Maiti Nepal. “I stayed in Imphal for around 10 days before crossing over to a bordering town of Myanmar on a 10-day permit handed to me and 22 other women by a person none of us knew.”

“All 23 of us joined 12 other women waiting for their flight to Dubai,” she told THT. Five or six of them flew off to Dubai daily, according to her. Others waited for their turn, only to be joined by more women every other day.

Something dawned on Champa on her eighth day there. She heard rumours about rescue operation held in Delhi on January 30 and called up her elder brother back home. “I want to return home,” she said, asking him to contact Maiti Nepal in Kathmandu.

Her brother obliged and began rescue efforts. “We contacted the Myanmar embassy in Kathmandu, which in turn informed Nepali embassy in Yangon,” Bishwo Khadka, the chairperson of Maiti Nepal, told THT over phone from Imphal. “The Nepali embassy rescued her on February 6. She returned to Kathmandu yesterday.”

Champa is in the custody of Maiti Nepal, along with other girls rescued from Delhi with support from Delhi Commission for Women on January 30.

She said she was unaware of, but concerned about, the status of many women that she left behind in Myanmar. “As many as 175 persons rescued from Manipur, including 32 men, are in seven safe houses in Imphal,” Khadka said.

Montu Ahanthem, member of Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights, told THT a few days ago that they had records of 308 Nepali women who had crossed the Indian border into Myanmar in the past one month. He said they had crossed the border to fly to Dubai on way to other Gulf countries.

Forty-year-old Parmila of Morang, who was also rescued from Delhi, said she was sent to Iraq in 2009 and served at a house as domestic help until 2015 when she finally escaped from the house. She somehow joined Israeli refugees in Turkey and arrived in Germany after travelling for at least 45 days. Last year she was sent back to Nepal by the Nepali embassy in Germany.

Parmila said, “After I returned to Nepal, I had a hard time earning the livelihood for my family.”

She added, “Later I came into contact with a woman named Sabita Magar, who I had known before going to Iraq. She said that I could join her on way to Myanmar.” Parmila added, “I then travelled to Delhi as per her direction.”