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The need for integrated SOPs to combat human trafficking along India–Nepal border

Observer Research Foundation, India and Nepal, 23 March 2021 - India and Nepal have long enjoyed a special relationship, bolstered by the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship that allows for free movement of people and goods across the nearly 1,800-km long border separating the two nations. Yet, this open border also remains susceptible to a host of illegal activities taking place across largely unmanned border points; the illicit smuggling and trafficking of people being one of the most frequent of such occurrences. India happens to be a major destination as well as transit country for trafficking people from Nepal, and many border towns in Indian states, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal serve as key areas used by traffickers to facilitate their activities.

In March 2020, both nations sealed their borders in response to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was expected that the lockdown measures would diminish heinous crimes like human trafficking from percolating any further. However, on the contrary, such crimes have continued unabated. Between June–July 2020, a few groups of trafficked Nepali women were rescued in India through the joint efforts of anti-trafficking units within India and the Nepalese Embassy. Despite this high-level threat, both nations have yet to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or a comprehensive set of integrated standard operating procedures (SOPs) to mitigate this problem.

It was expected that the lockdown measures would diminish heinous crimes like human trafficking from percolating any further. However, on the contrary, such crimes have continued unabated.

In Nepal, nearly more than 30,000 vulnerable people are trafficked every year to be engaged in complicated overseas employments, the adult entertainment industry, and child labour activities. The traffickers are said to transport the victims by bus or train to Mumbai or New Delhi from where they are either sold to brothel owners or “madams,” or they are made to work in factories. The usage of Indian routes to traffic women to the Gulf and the African nations has gained prominence in recent years since Nepal has put a ban on sending them to such nations as domestic workers. Traffickers use different routes for various destinations. For instance, they use the Kathmandu–New Delhi–Mizoram–Sri Lanka route to traffic these women to the Gulf countries. Similarly, they use Nepal–New Delhi–Dubai route to traffic to African countries. For the United States, the girls are flown through New Delhi–Moscow–Spain–South America.

Considering the vulnerabilities posed by an open border, a reasonable level of border control becomes a crucial tool to combat such occurrences. In India, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is tasked with the guarding of the India–Nepal border, as is the Armed Police Force in Nepal; and their personnel would invariably be the initial point of contact for intercepting potential victims.

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Source: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/need-integrated-sops-combat-human-trafficking-along-india-nepal-border/

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