Kathmandu, June 17 (IANS) Despite efforts by the Nepal government and rights organisations to prevent human trafficking, India still remains the biggest foreign destination for victims, with an estimated 10,000-15,000 Nepali women and girls being sold there annually.
The assessment is part of the 8th annual Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US Department of State in Washington late Tuesday.
The number could be higher in the absence of reliable statistics. NGOs working on trafficking issues have reported an increase in both transnational and domestic trafficking.
In many cases, relatives or acquaintances duped the victims into sexual exploitation while in many other cases, traffickers enjoyed immunity thanks to ties to politicians, businesspersons, state officials, police, customs officials and the border police.
The report said that according to NGOs, some police, border guards and other officials were found routinely to accept bribes to turn a blind eye to trafficking.
With Indian officials encountering genuine Nepali passports containing false information, it was clear that some Nepali officials were colluding with traffickers to provide them with these documents, the report said.
However, despite these serious concerns regarding the involvement of government officials, the government did not prosecute any official.
The other Asian destinations include Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Korea for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.
Besides India, where there is no record of the total number of migrant Nepali workers, over 1 million Nepali men and women work in Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and other Gulf states with the help of labour brokers and manpower agencies.
Employed as domestic servants, construction workers, or other low-skill laborers, they subsequently face conditions indicative of forced labour such as withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats, deprivation of food and sleep, and physical or sexual abuse, the report said.
About 7,500 children are trafficked domestically for commercial sexual exploitation. Also, within Nepal, more are forced to work as domestic servants, circus entertainers, factory workers, or beggars.
In 2008, there was an increase in the number of Nepali men being recruited for work in Gulf states, but subsequently trafficked into forced labour in Iraq and Afghanistan by manpower agencies.
Nepal is also becoming a major destination for foreign child sex tourists as traditional Southeast Asian destinations are becoming more stringent towards sex offenders.
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Obama Administration views the fight against human trafficking, both at home and abroad, as a critical part of the US foreign policy agenda.
The US currently funds 140 anti-trafficking programmes in nearly 70 countries.
Nepal remains on the Tier 2 country list compiled by the US for not fully complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.