Five Nepali men who were hoping to find work in Italy have been captured and held hostage in Libya. The men had been in contact with a so-called “hiring agent” based in Pokhara in order for them to go through paperwork and prepare them for their new jobs. Each man was required to pay Rs 1.3 Million (about $11,500 USD) for their travel to Italy and had agreed to pay an equal amount upon arrival. When the men reached Dubai on a visit visa, they were hastily taken from Dubai to Libya by a Pakistani trafficking operative. On Thursday, families of the hostages received a one-minute long video that included the five men begging for help, and reports of death threats from their captors. The men reported that they “are being held in an empty room with no facilities along with 14 Pakistanis. They (captors) sometime feed us rice and lentil and all of us have to eat from a single small utensil,” said the captives in the video, “We don’t know who the captors are, they physically assault us at times and threaten to kill us.”

Nepali Officials at the Embassy in Egypt were able to get in touch with the captives via messenger, the five men were allowed to have their phone to demand money needed for their release from their families and government. As of now, no headway has been made to get the men out of Libya. Nepali government officials are working to get the men out as soon as possible.

Accompanying complaints from the family members of the captives at the Department of Foreign Employment and the Central Investigation Bureau, police arrested the so-called “hiring agents” Santosh Parajuli of Kathmandu and Jit Kaji Gurung of Pokhara-19 in Kaski district. Through the course of interrogation, the pair admitted to sending the five men to Italy. This isn’t the first time the men have stolen money and facilitated the detainment of Nepalis, there have been numerous other cases, however, this is the first known time they have been taken in for questioning.

It is recommended that Nepalese going abroad for work check with their employer first, never pay money ahead of time, and work with reputable hiring companies.

Written by: Benjamin J. Loecken