Ministry slashes security forces' group clearance privilege

Published On: September 19, 2016 12:20 AM NPT By: Kamal Pariyar

NA passport row
KATHMANDU, Sept 19: Keeping in view of security sensitivity and effective management of immigration process at Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA), the Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to slash the group clearance privilege enjoyed by the security forces departing to or arriving from different peacekeeping missions. 

The move came after 232 Nepal Army troops were sent back by South Sudan immigration after they had landed there without passports. 

The incident also raised question mark over the immigration system at Nepal's only international airport. Nepal Army makes use of group charter planes to ferry its troops to various destinations for their deployment as peacekeepers. 

After the incident came to light, various concerns related to security sensitivity were expressed by the international community, compelling the Ministry of Home Affairs to cut down immigration-related privileges provided to the different security agencies.

“I have talked with the officials at the TIA and the Immigration Department about the management of the immigration system and asked them to ensure that everybody using TIA to flying abroad follows the same process,” Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi said.

Earlier, Nepal Army had been using unofficial gate to board the chartered flights after fulfilling immigration procedures. 

“By being flexible with the Nepal Army, we were just following the past practice. But from now on they will have to use the normal route,” an immigration official said requesting anonymity. 

The army was also criticized for being involved in smuggling gold taking the benefit of group immigration.  

However, Nepal Army said that they do not enjoy any special privileges as they have to fulfill all immigration procedures to use the international airport. 

“We respect and follow all rules and regulation as per the constitution and the country's laws. But it's an international practice of group immigration for the security forces while being deployed in peacekeeping missions,” Brigadier General Tara Bahadur Karki, NA spokesperson, said. 

Karki admitted that landing in a foreign country without passports was a serious mistake or negligence. 

“An enquiry board formed to investigate the negligence is expected to provide its suggestions soon,” the Brigadier General Karki said. 

Meanwhile, NA and Defense ministry officials have also expressed dissatisfaction over the government's diplomacy for not immediately making efforts to control the situation until they sent the passports left in Nepal. 

Had the government used diplomatic channel to resolve the issue, the 232 personnel would not have to return from South Sudan immediately after landing as they were "military not the rebels." 

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