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Emigration clearance racket suspected

By G Anand

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 25. The Emigration check-post authorities at the international airport here are suspecting the existence of a "network of middlemen" who illegally recruit women for employment as housemaids in countries in the Gulf.

In 2003, the Central Government had banned the recruitment of women under the age of 30 for employment as house maids in the Gulf countries following reports of sexual harassment, violation of labour laws and human rights abuse.

In the case of women above the age of 30, the Central Government ordered that Emigration clearance be given only to those having their work agreement, sponsorship declaration and job visa attested by the Indian Embassy in the country where they are to be employed.

Passports forged

This year, the Emigration department stopped scores of women bound for the Gulf to be employed as domestic helps on the ground that their travel documents were not in order. In some cases, it was found that the emigration clearance seal of the Protector of Emigrants (POE) affixed on the passports were forged.

On being questioned, several women told Emigration authorities that they had paid Rs. 20,000 or more to certain agents for procuring the job visa and getting emigration clearance to travel to the Gulf.

"The job mentioned in the visa would be that of a baby sitter, beautician, tailor or home nurse. This is a ploy often employed by middlemen to circumvent the law against recruiting women under the age of 30 for employment as house maids in the Gulf," an Emigration official said.

The National Women's Commission had reported to the Central Government that many of the women reaching the Gulf through such racketeers were being pushed into the sex trade. The Emigration department had also prevented the travel of several women who had procured visit visas to Gulf countries though they were uneducated and came from poor backgrounds.

Crime Branch probe

The Crime Branch police are separately investigating some recent complaints of women employed as housemaids being sexually exploited in the Gulf. The police are trying to identify their sponsors in the Gulf and blacklist them to prevent further exploitation of women. A Crime Branch official said there was huge demand for housemaids in the Gulf and a job visa in this category could be got free. However, a set of middlemen procures the visas and sell it to women hailing from the poorer sections of society in the State. Senior police officials suspect that that certain corrupt elements in the Emigration department have a stake in the racket.

This year, two Sub-Inspectors attached to the Emigration check-post in Thiruvananthapuram airport were suspended on the charge of "grave dereliction of duty." Three other officials were repatriated to their parent units on the ground that they were "unfit" for Emigration duty. Emigration authorities here arrested 73 persons in 2003 on the charge of attempting to travel to foreign countries using fake documents. In 2004, as many as 78 persons were arrested on similar charges.

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