Police in India have arrested two airline employees in connection with what is suspected to be a human trafficking operation centered on smuggling female victims of the Nepal earthquake to Gulf countries, the Agence France-Presse news agency reports.
The two ground staff members working for the national carrier Air India were arrested earlier this month after police at New Delhi’s international airport found seven Nepalese women heading to Dubai who had their travel documents stamped despite not having cleared immigration controls.
Under questioning, the airline employees said they had been paid to furnish forged documents for the seven women. In a subsequent raid on a local hotel, police found an additional 21 women who will now be returned to Nepal along with the seven stopped at the airport on 21 July.
Human trafficking has been a major problem in the region since before the April quake, with some 10,000-15,000 people from Nepal, most of them women and children, trafficked every year for manual and sex work, according to the U.N.
According to AFP, the women found in New Delhi had been smuggled into India via bus from areas in Nepal that had been devastated by the earthquake that shook the region in April, killing thousands across the poor Himalayan nation and also affecting parts of eastern India and China. The traffickers had apparently taken them on a circuitous route to Ahmedabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat before flying them to the Indian capital, all in a bid to evade immigration controls. Haider said it wasn’t clear what fate awaited the women in the Gulf countries where the traffickers had attempted to send them.