At Delhi airport, airline employees had been paid off to help the women through immigration as international travellers. The traffickers planned to confiscate the women’s passports on their arrival in Dubai, before handing them over to contacts in the United Arab Emirates.
Police in India say they have uncovered a human trafficking network that has sent hundreds of young women from earthquake-hit areas of Nepal to the Gulf, where they were forced into manual labour and sex work.
In a series of arrests 10 days ago, police at Delhi’s main airport detained two airline staff and two suspected traffickers. They also took 21 young women into their care, seven from the airport itself – where they were being led onto a flight to Dubai – and the rest from a hotel nearby.
“They were from very poor classes and were promised jobs with handsome salaries in the Gulf. They came from districts hit hard by the earthquake in [April]. It is this disaster that is most responsible,” said Mohammed Ishfaq Haider, deputy police commissioner at the Indira Gandhi airport.
More than 8,800 people were killed in April’s earthquake, which measured eight on the Richter scale and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, leaving millions homeless.
Campaigners and United Nations officials raised concerns about human trafficking in the aftermath of the disaster. Some experts were disparaging, saying such fears were unfounded.
The UN and local NGOs estimate 10,000 to 15,000 women and children a year are trafficked from Nepal. The majority end up in Indian brothels but some are taken overseas, to South Korea and as far as South Africa. The Gulf has long been a destination for women trafficked from south Asia.