Ram Bahadur Tamang was handed his new passport some four hours before his return flight from Malaysia to Nepal on January 19, 2015. He was told that he would get arrested if he chose an immigration counter other than counter number 20 at the airport.
“The agent told me to go straight to counter number 20 and also said everything had been set,” said Tamang, who is at a detention center of the Department of Immigration (DoI).
As instructed by the agent, Tamang and three of his friends entered the airport premises, went straight to immigration counter 20 and passed smoothly through the immigration process with their forged machine readable passports (MRPs).
“We were keenly aware of what the agent had told us. Thereof, we went to the same immigration counter. We didn’t talk to anyone inside the airport,” said Tamang. “We even pretended that we don’t know each other, and when we went to the toilet we did so only one at a time because we feared we might get arrested if we aroused any suspicion.”
He explained that his fear was that he might get arrested for being illegally in Malaysia, not for possessing a forged passport as he was completely naïve about this. Tamang, who received a new MRP only on the day he was returning to Nepal, said he believed he was getting a valid passport as he had payed Rs. 80,000 for it. He said an Indian provided him the new passport upon payment of the money.
All four of them were able to get clearance at the Malaysian airport with their forged passports as agents in Malaysia had set things up with the immigration authorities there.
Showing the forged passports, an investigation officer at DoI told Republica on condition of anonymity, “Anyone can figure out that these are forged passports.” It was clear that an entire racket, including some authorities at Malaysian immigration offices, was involved in the forgery, he said.
Eight returning migrant workers with fake MRPs were arrested at TIA in the previous two weeks.
Likewise, seven others were arrested for carrying forged travel document purportedly issued by Nepal’s embassy in Malaysia. There are some cases involving fake travel documents from Saudi Arabia as well.
Preliminary investigations at DoI show that returning migrants have paid up to Rs. 85,000 for their travel documents after lapsing into illegal status in the destination countries.
In Malaysia, the third largest destination for Nepali migrant workers, and some other destination countries, the status of the workers becomes illegal if they leave their jobs before their contract ends as their passports are withheld by their employers. Their status also becomes illegal if they change jobs without the employer’s permission.
The status of Ram Bahadur Tamang, who had gone to work in Malaysia for the fourth time, had become illegal after he quit his construction job and left his employer company. He said he was forced to leave his job because of physical torture by his boss and delays in the payment of his salary.