No trafficking: Airport blunder led to nurses detention

No trafficking: Airport blunder led to nurses detention

Kempegowda International Airport

A misjudgement on the part of immigration officials led to wrongful detention of 32 nurses bound for Armenia for study purpose.

The women from Kerala said they were held at the Kempegowda International Airport in pitiful conditions with no access to washroom.

The nurses and their organiser, Tony Tom, underwent an ordeal at the hands of immigration officials as well as the Bengaluru Police, who registered an FIR — declaring that the 32 women were being trafficked — without verifying facts.

The nursing graduates from Kerala had taken the services of an education consultancy based in Kankanady of Mangaluru. The consultancy owned by Tony Tom had helped them enrol in the two-month German language course at the University of Traditional Medicine Republic of Armenia (UTMRA).

The women were asked to pay Rs 1.5 lakh for the course, and Tom had taken Rs 29,200 for visa, pick-up, admission and Rs 37,450 for air ticket. They were told to pay the remaining amount during the course period.

Tom brought all the 32 to the Kempegowda International Airport on Monday night. They were to board a flight at 1.45 am on Tuesday. During check-in, immigration officials doubted they were carrying fake documents.

They were detained on suspicion that they were being trafficked to Armenia.

Tom, along with the nurses, were held till 11 am on Tuesday at the airport. The authorities concluded that it was a case of human trafficking and alerted the BIAL police. Ravishankar, immigration officer, Bureau of Immigration, filed a complaint and handed over Tom to them.

One of the nurses told DH that they were treated badly during the 11-hour stay with immigration officials. “They did not even allow us to go to washroom. On Tuesday morning, we were hungry and they neither arranged breakfast nor allowed us to buy,” the victim said.

Another nurse said, “We missed our flight and lost the ticket money. We had to face a lot of inconvenience due to the ignorance of the officials. They are responsible for the inconvenience caused to us. We have taken loans to study abroad.” Kala Krishnaswamy, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Northeast Division), said the police received information from the Armenian embassy over telephone that all the 32 women had taken admission at UTMRA in Yerevan.

“We are waiting for official confirmation through documents. We will verify them with the education department and submit before court that there was no human trafficking and that the nurses were genuinely going to study there,” she said.

Labhu Ram, Foreigners Regional Registration Officer, said they had handed over the case to the airport police and communicated with the Armenian embassy. Asked about the goof-up by his officials and the monetary loss to nurses, he said he would look into the matter.

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