Where Is He?

Ram Ghimire

An unidentified Nepali asylum seeker has been consistently changing his address in Britain every three months for the past six years. Over this period, his beard has grown considerably, to the extent that his own six-year-old daughter could no longer recognize him.

One morning at nine o’clock, while other residents of the house were at work or school, a knock echoed on his front door. Hoping for a crucial letter regarding his case, he cautiously opened the door to discover two uniformed white police officers with handcuffs at the ready, alongside a parked police van. Startled but composed, he pondered whether the police were there to arrest him, touching his head in contemplation. He aimed to remain as calm as possible to avoid arousing any suspicion.

The armed police officers presented a photograph of a young Nepali boy and inquired, “Does this man live here?”

Gazing at the photograph, he crossed his fingers, his face frozen with fear for a moment. Realizing the police had uncovered him, he understood it would be futile to argue. In a hesitant and fearful tone, he stammered, “Um… um… definitely, he lives here. He’s in! Should I call him?”

The police officers, convinced by his response, said, “Please!” The bearded young man gestured for them to follow, and they returned to the house. The police waited at the door for an extended period. Neither the Nepali youth nor the bearded man who had gone inside to invite him emerged. In fact, no one else was home this time, except the bearded man. It had been five days since the police raided his workplace, and still, no one had surfaced.

The patient police constables, who had been waiting outside, entered the house, pointing their pistols in all directions. They meticulously searched all the rooms, under drawers, beds, restrooms, and closets. However, the bearded man had already escaped. Once again, the police officer failed to apprehend him.

Finally, the police officer noticed the opened back door of the house. They speculated that the Nepalese youth they were seeking might be the bearded young man who had managed to deceive them and escape. He had fled by traversing forests, barren lands, and slums.

Subsequently, a law was enacted in the British Parliament, mandating landlords to receive a copy of a tenant’s passport and agree to a rental contract.

In December 2003, the Home Office conducted a review of illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom. The majority of applicants were refugees, and some included claims in their applications stating they had received death threats, experienced attacks, had their houses set on fire, and faced threats to kidnap their children upon returning to their home countries. Additionally, they submitted fabricated photographs to support these claims.

Initially, applicants entered the United Kingdom with visas for various purposes such as students, medical treatment, visitors, journalists, sportspeople, and artists.

A significant number of Nepalese individuals arrived in the United Kingdom during the civil war, marked by the Maoists’ insurgency aimed at overthrowing the current democratic government of Nepal. Teenagers from remote villages were extensively used for guerrilla warfare between February 13, 1996, and November 21, 2006. The Maoist insurgents directly posed threats to professional civilians.

While some Nepali individuals sought asylum in Britain, a country known for its commitment to human rights, others were labeled as hypocrites or dissimulators. They submitted applications along with their passports to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Notably, some even expressed their dissent by discarding their passports in the bin and tearing them up.

Excluding dependents, the overall figure of registered asylum seekers was 60,045 in 2003. The number of cases awaiting a preliminary decision was 23,900. Including data from previous years, the UK Adjudicators of the International Advertising Association recorded a total of 83,945 asylum appeals in 2003. An estimated 28 percent of asylum applications in the country were granted asylum exceptional leave to remain in 2003. Asylum removals, which included assisted returns and some voluntary departures, increased by 21 percent in 2003 to a record 13,005, excluding dependents. Including dependents, a record 17,628 failed asylum seekers were removed (ref: GOV.UK control of immigration: statistics the United Kingdom 2003).

The highest number of applications came from citizens of Somalia, Iraq, China, Zimbabwe, and Iran, with Nepalese applicants being in negligible numbers. After a case is registered, the hearing is typically completed in the court within 4 to 5 years. Successful illegal asylum seekers, who present substantial evidence, are granted the right to stay in the UK permanently after a two-to-three-year period, followed by eligibility for British citizenship.

To give failed asylum seekers a second chance, both bogus and genuine applicants, the judicial process often imposes time limits for presenting evidence and re-appealing. Many false petitioners fail to refile the case and resort to secretly living in Britain illegally. These illegal settlers often work for meager wages to survive. In cases enduring or pending verdicts, they may work similarly to eligible workers and even pay income tax.

Illegal immigrants frequently find themselves compelled to change addresses and jobs due to the extended time it takes for the police to apprehend them. If the British police manage to raid their residence or workplace, arrested individuals cannot access earnings from the bank or essentials from their homes. They are detained for a few days to prepare for deportation, ultimately being sent back to their home countries.

Employers hiring such illegal individuals are required to pay a fine of £10,000 per person to the Ministry of Home Affairs, accompanied by a serious warning for the employer.

The first tier of illegal immigrants consists of overstayers (individuals with expired visas). They attempt to cross the border by concealing themselves in long and deep lorries (trucks), strapping oxygen cylinders to their chests, and being pushed down by large cartons. Additionally, some wrap themselves with duvets in ice containers while trying to cross the English border are the second tier of illegal. The second tier of illegal entry into the UK involves individuals from third countries (Asia, South America, and Africa). Nearly 70 percent of these individuals first cross European countries en route, and upon reaching the boarders of France, they are apprehended at the UK border checkpoint immigration. The ultimate destination for all is the United Kingdom.

The third tier of illegal immigrants attempts to cross the English Channel on rubber boats from the borders of Belgium, the Netherlands, and France to enter British soil. Only 50 percent of those attempting to enter the UK are caught by the police before setting foot on British soil. The sinking of boats into the freezing sea due to high loads is a common occurrence. All those attempting this perilous journey pay an unimaginable price to various facilitators to cross the border.

The Nepalese attempting to enter the UK fall into this category as well. If an individual can successfully live illegally in the UK for 14 years, and subsequently, if they can appeal, providing evidence of their residence during this period, the pathway to obtaining British citizenship becomes accessible.

In December 2003, I found myself in an unfortunate encounter with a British police officer. They conducted a raid on my residence in the UK, where I was a student pursuing my postgraduate studies at a prestigious university. The events unfolded two days before Christmas, precisely at 4:00 AM. I was startled by the sound of knocking on the main door downstairs, prompting me to open the window slightly for a view. To my surprise, I saw two armed police officers and two others in civilian dress. My visa status was legal in Britain, so I couldn’t fathom why the police were knocking on my door so early in the morning. Impatience began to arise in my mind.

In another room, my two children, aged nine and four, appeared to be asleep. My wife and children were on my student dependent visa, innocent and not guilty of any wrongdoing. My wife, awakened by the commotion, questioned me, “Who’s at the door downstairs? Why does your face look so troubled?”

I replied, “Police officers, four of them, standing outside the door.”

My wife suspected that I might have done something illegal. She pressed me with questions, “Don’t lie to me. Did you do something wrong? Why are you hiding this from me so much? What is the reality?”

I assured her, “Hey dear, trust me! I am innocent.”

I descended to face the police, instructing my wife to stay silent. The police officers outside shouted, “Hey, open the door!” They knocked forcefully, and the constant knocking added to the tension. Upon opening the door, I was confronted by heavily armed British police with handcuffs at the ready.

The first police officer asked, “What is your name?”

I replied, “I am Ramprasad.”

The police officer inquired, “Is this your full name?”

I clarified, “Ramprasad Ghimire,” but they seemed skeptical.

Another police officer asked, “Can we come in?”

I responded, ” please sir, welcome.”

The police demanded, “Show me your passport.”

I explained, “It’s upstairs. Can I go up to get it?”

The police officer decided, “I will go with you too.”

I said, “The children and my wife are sleeping.”

The police officer insisted, “Doesn’t matter. Bring everyone’s passports down.” As I ascended, I whispered to my wife about the police requesting our passports and mentioned one of them standing outside the bedroom door.

Meanwhile, the police officer shouted at me, “Hey, Mr. Ram, please come out quickly!” Consequently, I descended with four passports. The police officer scrutinized my face while examining my passport, and I thought the ordeal was over.

Another person in civilian dress asked, ‘Does anyone else also live here?’

The names spilled from my mouth, ‘Mr. Kiran Rizal lives here with his two children and wife!’

They seemed skeptical. The police officer queried, “Where are they?”

I responded, “Upstairs in the middle room! Shall I go and call him?”

The police officer decided, ‘No, I’m going myself!’ Apparently, he thought I might try to escape.

The police officer questioned, ‘Where is he?’

I pointed to the middle room, and the police stood in front of his door, shouting, “Mr. Killen! Hey Killen! Hello Killen…!”

Surprised, Kiran rubbed his eyes and followed the voice calling. It was 4:15 in the morning, and he saw a heavily armed policeman standing in front of his bedroom door. He hesitated for a moment, looking a bit fearful. Taking a step back, he said, ‘Yes, sir! How can I help you?’ appearing absent-minded and worried from facing the police.

The police officer instructed, ‘Let’s go down with all your passports!’ Meanwhile, he took a deep breath, looked at me encouragingly, and handed over his four passports to the police officer. The officer observed his fearless face and checked his passport.

The police officer seemed suspicious upon learning that only two families lived in the house. He inquired, ‘Is there someone else who lives in your house, Mr. Ram? Don’t jeopardize and cheat us. Who is he?’

I replied, ‘Of course, someone does. He is Mr. Deependra Keshi!’ The police officer doubted the authenticity of this name.

He warned, “You will be trapped again. Tell us the truth!”

I asserted, “I am a Gurkhali, very trustworthy! I don’t know how to lie. You must know that I will never give up!”

The police officer persisted, ‘Where is he then?’

I explained, ‘In the first room at the back, upstairs. Believe me, shall I call him down?’

The police officer refused, ‘No! I will go myself!’ and prepared his handcuffs. Standing at the door of the back room, he called out, “Defender? Mr. Defender? Hey guy, please come out!”

Mr. Deependra, awakened from a deep sleep and wearing only underwear, rubbed his eyes and tried to look around.

Shocked and scared! A police officer in my room? This time? The scene was unbelievable!

The police officer instructed, “Put your clothes on, please!”

Mr. Deependra dared to ask, “What have I done wrong?”

The police officer replied, “Mr. Defender, take your passport and come down! You’ll realize soon.”

Deependra came down wearing a t-shirt and trousers. He quickly understood that we had all been discovered. The police officer checked his passport, took a deep breath, glanced around the ceiling, and then looked at me with surprise.

He inquired, “Is there another person living in this house? Who is the other person’s name?” The police began to scrutinize all of us. “Tell me, who else lives here?” he shouted loudly. I wondered how they knew who lived in this house. I exchanged a glance with Kiran and Deependra and said, “Yes, there’s another one living here!”

The police officer asked, ‘What is his name?’

I replied, ‘Mr. Jeet Bahadur!’

“Are you kidding me?” The police officer did not believe that name. I, too, was surprised by the officer’s skepticism. Mr. Jeet Bahadur had come from Hong Kong and started living in our house a week ago. Maybe his name wasn’t Jeet Bahadur? I had never checked his passport. Mr. Jeet Bahadur might not have disclosed his real name from the passport either.

I said, ‘He lives in the last room upstairs! Shall I go and call him?’

The police officer said, ‘No, no, you will drive him away. I’ll go myself!’ The officer went upstairs and stood at the door of the back room, shouting, “Mr. Mit Bahadur! Hey Mit Bahadur! Where are you, dear? Are you listening to me!”

He had come home from work at two o’clock in the morning and was asleep. Mr. Jeet Bahadur woke up, rubbed his eyes, and looked shocked to see the armed police officer in front of him. He greeted the officer politely.

The police officer asked, ‘Is your name Mit Bahadur?’

Mr. Jeet Bahadur replied, ‘No! That’s not my name!’ The police officer became optimistic with the answer, saying, “I am not Mit Bahadur.” The officer removed the handcuffs, indicating they had found the person they were looking for. Mr. Jeet Bahadur was momentarily afraid.

He reminded the police, ‘I am not a Mit Bahadur, but I am Jeet Bahadur!’

The police officer said, ‘Shut your mouth! Walk down with your passport!’ The police officer communicated with another downstairs on the walkie-talkie using their own code. He pushed Jeet Bahadur downstairs, muttering to himself, ‘I have come to live in such a messy and chaotic house. Unbelievable!’.

The police officer stopped him and asked, “Did you tell me something?” Jeet Bahadur was shocked again because he did not understand the police officer. Downstairs, we all were waiting to perceive the outcome of today’s incident. The police officer looked at Jeet Bahadur’s face, checked the passport, and got confused again. The police officers suppressed themselves; he was really a Jeet Bahadur, but the person they were looking for was still not found. Is this the address we were informed? They are looking for each other.

Another police officer asked me, ‘Is this a hostel or a house?’ In Britain, locals usually live with only two or three persons in a house. There were many, unbelievably. A civilian asked me, “I think one more person must live here. Is that not it, guys?” Another police officer said, ‘It should be!’

I said, “You are right; another couple lives here!”

The police officer asked, ‘Where are they?’

“Down in the front room,” I said.

Police officer, ‘Show me where their room is? I will go myself and arrest him. It’s too much.’ The police knocked on the door of the downstairs room, but no one opened the door. The police constable aggressively pushed the door forcefully, but no one was in the room.

I said, ‘I think they are both at work. The husband is on night duty, and the wife left for work before your arrival.’

Police constable, ‘What’s his name?’ I said, ‘Hari Timalsina, a student.’ The police officer did not believe this name again because they were their last hope for an illegal arrest here, and the name still did not match.

Police officer, ‘No! This is not his real name! Does anyone else live here? Hey… hey…? Tell me the truth!’

I showed the picture of the husband and wife hanging on the wall and said, ‘They are the same. Does it match with the picture that you informed?’

Police officer, ‘No. We are seriously confused! We did not find him!’

I said, ‘Who are you looking for? Can you tell the name please? Maybe we can help you.’ The police wanted to keep his name confidential. Our children and wives were gathering at the top of stairs and listening to the conversation. They looked horrified. How did the police officer come to know about this house? We were all surprised.

Police officer, ‘Who is the leader of this house?’ ‘I am,’ I replied. Civil dress crooked out, “You’re lying to us!”

I said, “Am I already pretending you think?” He showed a photo of a person whose name cannot be revealed here and said, “Hey guys, do you know him? Tell us honestly, please! He used to live here! Tell us, yes or no! We have got his address proof.”

I said, ‘Yes, you are right. He used to live here. He left this house three weeks ago.’

Police officer, ‘Oh, Jesus, why did he leave your house?’

I said, ‘We don’t know. Maybe he got a new job somewhere! He took all his essentials without letting anyone know. The rent for this month had already been paid.’

I continued, ‘This person came to live here three months ago. We didn’t know about him. It was a strictly personal matter. We never asked, who are you? What is your business? We are all on student visas. Your visit gave us lots of pain, and we are embarrassed. You should say this before you walk away. Why do you want to arrest him? What was his allegation?’

The police officer said, ‘In reality, we are from the UK immigration department. We know that we hurt you all. We are ashamed!’

Another police constable added, ‘Please, forgive us!’

‘He is illegal in this country. His application as an asylum seeker asking for shelter here was unsuccessful. The court sent a letter to give him a chance to submit full and fresh evidence. The evidence he submitted was all scams. He received a letter that he had to leave the country in fourteen days. However, he did not appear at the UK immigration to have left the country.

He has been hiding in Britain for the last six years. He is even a chicanery like Mr. Bin Laden. In fact, the bearded boy who escaped from the police in the beginning used to live in our house illegally.

We all laughed while listening to the police story in the jovial moment. The police officer came here at 04:00 AM. It was 6:30. They walked away having each a cup of tea, asking for forgiveness.