RGIA immigration staff sniff out ‘dubious’ travellers

Fraudulent travel agents from across the country have made Hyderabad their main base to traffic people

The immigration staff of Rajiv Gandhi International Airport have become too familiar in differentiating between passengers who genuinely travel to their destinations and those who adopt dubious methods of travel.

A woman wearing bare essentials with a turmeric-laced cotton thread (pasupu thadu) around her neck as a symbol of her married status and also clad in a simple/old saree, and a man wearing old clothes and a pair of rubber slippers, are a sure-shot find to catch persons travelling on suspected documents.

People travelling to West Asian countries on forged visas has been significant and continuously worrisome, a senior immigration official said.

The recent detention of 44 women who were set to board a flight to Kuwait, at RGIA, has once again proved that fraudulent travel agents from across the country have made Hyderabad their main base to traffic people, especially women to the West Asian countries.

The agents involved in trafficking people to various countries for ‘cheap labour’ are mostly from Mumbai with a vast and well-oiled network across the country. The agents in connivance with ‘khaleefs’, in common terms – employers, apply for visit visas and later forge them as employment visas, before handing over the passports and tickets to the victims.

The agent charges at least ₹ 50,000 per person; the amount varies from country [in which work is sought] to country. “They travel to other countries on visit visa for work purpose. However, a large number of passengers, the majority of them being women, won’t be aware of the fraud and become illegal immigrants there,” he said on condition of anonymity.

He said that each day hundreds of passengers travel on forged visas, their current mechanism doesn’t allow them to verify every ‘suspicious’ passenger. “Moreover, the passengers are let off on humanitarian ground too,” the officer said.

Daily wage earners, in particular, are being trafficked to Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar and other Gulf countries with the promise of hefty wages. Most of them hail from northern districts of Telangana, Godavari and Rayalaseema districts in Andhra Pradesh, and a large group from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The entire fraud is to avoid paying the security deposit amount to the Protector of Emigrants, which the employer must deposit with the Indian Embassies or High Commissions in the respective countries.

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