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Attempt to extract bribe by Immigration Officials at Sonauli (********** Pradesh), India / Belahiya, Nepal border crossing.
Railway Police  |  Others
I am a foreign national living for many years at an ashram in India on a 5-year tourist visa. Under the terms of this visa, I am not allowed to remain in the country continuously for more than 180 days.
Following the terrorist attack in Mumbai on November 11, 2008, the Indian government passed a rule that foreign nationals holding this type of visa must remain out of the country for 60 days every time they leave.
In addition to several other problems that it creates, this requirement places a considerable financial burden on each individual.
Strict rules were also put into effect requiring all foreign nationals to submit Arrival and Departure Report forms to the local police.
Several times, the Indian Immigration officials at the border crossing at Sonauli, ********** Pradesh / Belahiya, Nepal (north of Gorakhpur), have demanded that I and other foreign nationals present our Arrival and Departure Report forms to them when we left the country.
However, neither the Indian government (at the national level) nor the local police nor our country’s local representative here has ever notified us of any such requirement.
It was quite obvious to anyone who knows the ways of Indian government officials that they were trying to intimidate foreign nationals to proffer a bribe for breaking what is almost-certainly a non-existent rule.
Recently I and a fellow citizen of mine crossed through the Indian Immigration Office at Sonauli.
One of the Immigration officials stated to me that he would allow us to return into India immediately if we each paid a “fee” of Rs. 500.
Later, when I sought to confirm this “fee” with another Immigration Official in the same office, he now stated that the “fee” was Rs. 550.
In the Nepal Immigration Office in Belahiya, an official stated that we would have to pay a Rs. 500 “fee” to return into India on the same day. (Had we waited until the following day, we would have had very little time in which to buy our return train tickets.)
After considering all aspects of the situation, my companion and I decided to stay in Nepal for the full 60 days—at considerable financial loss.
The requirement that foreign nationals remain out of the country for 60 days is ostensibly meant to help prevent another terrorist attack.
The Immigration Officials at the Sonauli border crossing are, in effect, willing to sacrifice their own country to stuff their pockets with money.
Later, when we sought to renew our visas for Nepal in Pokhara, the Immigration Official there ripped us off for Rs. 500 – 700 each by demanding that we pay in Nepali Rupees—and manipulating the exchange rate.
A few years earlier, as I was passing through the Immigration Office at Sonauli, one of the officials there told me that I had overstayed my visa.
Nowhere on the visa does it state the 180-day limit. And each time, when examining my visa, the Foreigners Registration Officer here always stated that I did not have to leave India for “6 months”—and named a date, six months by the calendar, when I was required to leave.
When I asked the Immigration Officer at Sonauli several times, “Where do I have go and what do I have to do?”—all he would answer was: “This makes it very difficult for us.”
Finally, I said, “Look. If you’re trying to get a bribe out of me, you can forget it. Where do I have to go and what do I have to do?”
He would only give me vague, evasive answers.
Later, someone on the street told me that I would have to travel to a police station at the district headquarters—about 160 kilometres away--and obtain a letter allowing me to leave India.
The trip took 14 hours. I arrived back at the border crossing at 2 a.m. I was miserable for the rest of my 7-day journey.
Upon returning to my home in India, I filed a complaint by e-mail with the “vigilance office” of the Ministry of Home Affairs—but received no reply.
Posted on : June 01, 2012 | Views : Via : Online
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