Gulf job seekers from Kerala end up as drug carriers: Customs

Kochi: The Customs on Friday said there has been a spurt in job seekers from Kerala and other States being lured to act as carriers for smuggling narcotics and other banned substances into the Gulf countries and several of them have been arrested.

It cautioned people against falling into traps by smuggling gangs, who offer free air tickets and visa, saying those caught by authorities in the foreign countries would be jailed there and can face punishments, including death sentence.

Recently, one of the Gulf countries has officially communicated to the Central government about rising incidents of passengers of Indian nationality, mainly from North Kerala, getting arrested for possession of drugs, official sources here said without naming the country.

So far this year, around 200 passengers used as carriers of narcotic substances and foreign currencies had been arrested in the particular Gulf nation alone, they said. Indian nationals from Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad had also been arrested during the year, though in less numbers compared to those from Kerala.

Majority of the passengers arrested were innocent people seeking jobs in the Gulf countries and they had been languishing in the jails there, the sources said. Commissioner of Customs (Preventive) Sumit Kumar said passengers, especially innocent job seekers, including women, were lured by smuggling gangs operating in Kerala, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru with free visa and air ticket to the Gulf countries and fake job offer among others.

But they were used as carriers of contraband items and many of them end up in the hands of sentinels, he said. He said it had come to the notice of the Customs department that unscrupulous persons were engaging, funding and arranging visas for the overseas job seekers.

When they travel, they were handed over bags stuffed with banned goods, such as narcotics, psychotropic substances, medicines and unaccounted foreign currencies, knowingly or unknowingly, leading to their arrests on arrival in the Gulf countries.

The official said those who end up the jails in the foreign countries will have to face trial and ultimately some even get capital punishment there. He said such persons caught before leaving for Gulf countries would also face action from Customs officials here and would be prosecuted under the Customs Act, 1962 and NDPS Act, 1985 among others.

If any medicines were carried for personal use, it should be accompanied by valid prescriptions given by registered medical practitioners, Kumar said. Indian or foreign currencies should be taken only in the permissible limit – Rs 25,000/USD 5,000 – and after declaring them.