Foreigners in Nepal’s prisons

Himal Khabarpatrika, 11-18 November

As many as 898 foreigners are currently serving time in Nepal’s prisons, according to the latest data released by the Department of Prison Management.

Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of foreign prisoners are Indians. Nepal shares a long and porous border with two of India’s poorest states with high crime rates. So it comes as no surprise when one finds out that three in every four foreign prisoners doing time in Nepal are from India.

Of the 682 Indian prisoners languishing in jails in Nepal, 41 are women. Foreigners are serving jail terms in Nepal mainly for drug peddling, kidnapping, rapes, human trafficking, murder, cheating, wildlife poaching and IT fraud. Indians outnumber other foreigners in almost every crime except visa overstay, bank fraud, counterfeit currency and child abuse.

What is interesting is that the second highest number of foreigners in detention are from Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom with which Nepal has restrained people-to-people ties. But what could explain this is a large number of Bhutanese refugees languishing in eastern Nepal for the last three decades. Although over 100,000 refugees from Bhutan have been taken to the US, Australia, Canada and other countries, some 6,000 refugees are still in Nepal.

After nationals from Bhutan (70), Bangladesh (47) and Pakistan (21) are number three and four on the list of foreign prisoners in Nepal. Only 76 foreign prisoners are from outside these four South Asian countries. Foreign prisoners from outside the region are in single digits, except China (10), but this figure also includes Tibetans.

As many as 19 foreign prisoners are from Africa, and 15 are from Europe, including the notorious French ‘Bikini Killer’ Charles Sobharaj. There is only 1 American.

The higher number of foreign prisoners is lodged in Jagannath Deval jail in Kathmandu (108). Most of them have been slapped with jail terms of more than five years.