A Sri Lankan foreign employment agent this week raised an interesting issue: “How do you define a forged passport?”
“I have 100s of passports by would-be migrant workers. Some of them have left them in the office for eight years and not gone abroad. Am I responsible if they bring a perfectly valid passport issued by the Immigration Department that has been obtained by furnishing bogus documents,” asked Wijeya Undupitiya, a former computer systems analyst who set up a recruiting office 20 years ago,
“Many of these passports are of women who on the spur of the moment decide to go abroad due to a fight with the husband and then make up and decide against migrating for work,” he told the Business Times, adding that he has written to the Immigration Commissioner for a ruling on the definition of a forged passport.
Mr Undupitiya’s attention was drawn to the issue, in which he is also planning to file a fundamental rights case in the Supreme Court on the grounds that his rights is likely to be infringed, after an 18-year, whose job application he was handling, was arrested with a forged passport.
The mother of this youngster had got him a job at a garment factory in Mauritius where the former has worked for many years. However the recruitment age was 20 years. The young man had obtained a passport listing his age as 20, paying a bribe to an officer at the Immigration Department and getting the job processing done through Mr Undupitiya’s agency.
“I didn’t know it was a passport obtained under false pretences. In fact I have written to the Immigration Commissioner-General to clarify what a forged passport is because the passport is genuine as it’s issued by the department,” he said, adding: “There are many cases where migrant workers produce passports which are legally valid but secured by bribing someone at the department to insert a false date of birth.
He said he often sees women walking into his office saying ‘happily’ that they have got a passport after submitting forged papers. “They don’t think it is wrong and illegal,” he said, adding recently an 18-year old youngster was arrested by police for possessing a ‘forged’ passport.
Mr Undupitiya deals only with garment factory workers. “I think we should not send workers as domestics because it’s degrading work. Furthermore unlike any other kind of workplace, it’s difficult to establish a good residence and a bad one. No one knows what goes inside a home and generally to go in, even for the police, a search warrant is required.”