The Kerala police have ordered an investigation into the suspected visa racket in which at least 24 persons from coastal Thiruvananthapuram, including two women, ended up in Israeli jails last month.

Inspector-General of Police A. Hemachandran said the police would register a case of cheating and record the statements of the alleged victims.

Those jailed in Israel were part of a 50-member group from coastal Thumba and Pallithura who paid a local agent Rs. 2 lakh each for a job in Israel. Four more of the group, who were deported from Tel Aviv, arrived here on Friday.

Valsala Johnson, 38, said she was locked up in a women's prison. Her final two days in Israel were spent in solitary confinement in a cell inside Tel Aviv airport with no access to toilet or potable water. “I would spend hours peering out of the tiny glass window of the cell. When a guard passed by, I would bang on the door to catch his attention so that I could use the toilet in the block. I was given two thin slices of bread every 12 hours. I drank fetid water from a washbasin in the cell,” she told The Hindu. The mother of two children had pawned her jewellery and pledged her small piece of land to raise money for the visa.

The agent had promised her employment as a domestic help for Rs.70,000 a month. Ms. Valsala said her neighbour Yetna Rusala Periera, 34, was in still in jail in Israel. The Israeli police arrested the group and imprisoned them as illegal immigrants. They deported the first batch of the detainees to India on October 6.

Several other members of the group were still hiding as illegal emigrants in Israel, seeking the help of the Indian agent's lawyer in Haifa to prolong their stay in the country.

The group paid the agent through the bank account of a woman in Puthenthope.

The agent won their trust by fraudulently claiming to represent a religious charity. He used the charity's name to book tickets for the group to Jordan from Chennai on September 23.

They said a woman emigration officer at the Chennai airport had initially refused to clear them for travel. However, the agent who was with group had then spoken to two other officers who ushered the woman away and gave them emigration clearance. Little did the group realise then that they were travelling to Israel via Jordan on a tour visa valid only for seven days.

The agent left the group at Amman in Jordan, promising to meet them in Israel. The group then crossed over to Israel from Jordan through a border check-post on September 25. Subsequently, accompanied by an Israeli guide, they toured Jerusalem.

On September 26, the guide abandoned the group after ushering them into a church to celebrate mass. The members of the group got separated and were picked up by the police over the next two days. Members of the coastal community said they would form an action council to get justice in the case.

Keywords: Visa fraud