Govt plans more surveillance over foreign nationals

Published On: February 22, 2020 08:26 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

• Indians may need ID papers to enter Nepal
• Amendment to immigration law proposes supervision and monitoring mechanisms in all 77 districts
• Home Ministry could bar any Nepali citizen from leaving the country

KATHMANDU, Feb 22: The government has proposed revisions to the existing immigration law to increase supervision and monitoring over the activities of foreign nationals.

The Bill to Amend and Integrate Immigration Laws, which will replace the existing Immigration Act 1992, proposes separate committees in all 77 districts for surveillance over the entry, presence and activities of foreigners in their respective areas.

“Committees will be formed in each district and (immigration) department for monitoring and supervision over the entry, presence, activities and conduct of foreigners in Nepal,” reads Section 10 of the bill. Foreigners will also need to submit details of their contact person, residence and contact address at the entrance point while coming into Nepal.

The proposed amendment will made it mandatory for all landlords to inform the government authorities about the particulars of their foreign tenants. Such information can be placed in the electronic system of the immigration department, a nearby ward office, police station or the immigration office.

The bill registered by Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa at the National Assembly secretariat also proposed barring foreign nationals living in Nepal from taking part in any political activities. The existing law doesn’t bar a foreign national from such participation.

 With the enforcement of the proposed bill, which will need the endorsement of both houses of parliament, foreign nationals may not be able to take part in any political activities here. Even in the absence of any legal provision barring foreigners from engaging in political activity, the government deported a Canadian national in 2016 for his political comments.

The proposed revision makes it mandatory for foreign nationals seeking entry into protected areas to apply for permission only through trekking and travel agencies.

The government has proposed in its provision to allow in foreign nationals without entry visas in special situations through a decision of the cabinet. It has proposed introducing five types of visas under the law for the first time although in practice it has been issuing eight types of visas through existing regulations. The bill has made no mention of study visas, business visas and Non Resident Nepali visas.

If the new law is passed it would hold airline companies responsible if they bring in foreign nationals without entry visas or necessary documents. Such airlines would have to carry such passengers back to the country where they embarked.

Any tampering with travel documents, passports and visas could land one in jail for five years or incur a fine of Rs 500,000 or both. Misconduct against immigration officials could result in one year in jail or a Rs 100,000 fine or both.

In an interesting development, the bill has proposed allowing the immigration authorities to bar any individual from leaving the country if there is a written request from the authorities to restrict that individual for travelling abroad. The Home Ministry could bar any Nepali citizen from leaving the country if it feels that his/her travel abroad would result in a negative impact on Nepal’s relations with the international community.

Indians may need to show ID to enter Nepal
Keeping in view the trafficking of Rohingya refugees to Nepal, the government has proposed compulsory identity cards for foreigners who wouldn’t need mandatory entry visas.

This provision may make it mandatory for Indian nationals to show their ID to enter Nepal. At present, Indian citizens do not compulsorily need to show any identity papers.

“Nepal government may allow some foreign nationals to enter and stay in Nepal without visas, based on mutual relations with the foreign country concerned. But the nationals from such a country should submit the documents as mentioned,” reads Section 3 (2) of the bill.

Officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the provision was introduced with a view to control any illegal entry of Rohingya refugees.

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