National

Nepali migrants in Qatar: Poor treatment of workers goes on

- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Nov 23, 2017-Despite recent announcements by Qatar of major reforms to improve working conditions for millions of foreign workers on its soil, a large number of Nepali workers have not been paid for months on end. 

After waiting for months for salary and struggling for basic facilities like food, hundreds of them have decided to return home on their own. 

This month alone, 36 Nepali migrant workers—employees at Mercury Mena Company—were forced to  leave the tiny Gulf state without salary, paying for return ticket from their own pocket.

A group of 17 Nepali workers returned home last week without salary. All of them had either borrowed money from Nepali friends in Qatar or received money from home for air tickets. 

According to Som Bahadur BK, one of the three workers who returned  home last week, the company has not paid the salary since April. 

The company, an engineering firm that operates in six countries across the Middle East and North Africa region, has not even cared about other facilities, Nepali workers.

“More than 300 Nepali workers had gone unpaid for months. After enduring the situation for a few months, Nepali workers started   heading back to Nepal,” said BK, a native from Jamuni-2 in Bardiya.

While most of the Nepali workers in the company have returned home, around 20 are still stranded in the tiny Gulf state, said Thaman Bahadur Khand from Waling, Syangja.

The company had assured the workers that it would settle their accounts, but that never happened. 

According to Ganga Ram Bhushal, who hails from Wahaki-2, Parbat, the company owes around 35,000 riyals to Nepali workers in unpaid salaries. 

Bhushal has not been paid  4,300 riyals, while BK and Khand have been denied 8,205 and 6,553 riyals respectively. After prolonged suffering, the three gave up hope  and returned home, buying air tickets with the money  sent in from their kin in Nepal. 

The failure to pay them comes despite the introduction of a Wage Protection System (WPS) last November, meant to ensure that wages are paid electronically.

The trio had gone to Qatar in April 2015 on a two-year contract to work as electrician. The company did not renew their contracts, but continued to employ them without pay. 

“We were left with no money and food. Our movement was also restricted as we had no valid ID card, which had expired about 15 months ago,” said Khand. 

The company had more than 500 Nepali workers on its payroll, the trio explained recalling the time they had joined it in 2015. But the number gradually dropped due to the poor condition in the company. 

Soon, the situation worsened further as the company’s canteen stopped serving them food. “The last few months were very painful. That left us with no option but to leave,” said Bhushal. 

Although the company has pledged in the contract to provide each worker 300 riyals per month in food allowance, it paid them only 50 riyals a week, BK said. “That was just not enough.”

The Nepali workers reached out to all the concerned agencies for help. But with no help forthcoming, they decided to return home.

“We had also sought help from Nepali Embassy in Doha. But the authorities there said they couldn’t do anything except talk with the company,” said BK. 

Published: 23-11-2017 07:38

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