Death, torture final fate of many migrants

- Roshan Sedhai, Kathmandu
Death, torture final fate of many migrants

Apr 26, 2014-

Scores of Nepali women working in Gulf countries as domestic help have died while hundreds are forced to return with scars of mental and physical exploitation.

A report of the Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB) shows that at least 71 Nepali women have died in the labour destinations while hundreds more have been rescued in the past six years.

The exact toll could be twice as much since the report includes only those leaving the countries through the legal channel.

The government estimates that a majority of female migrant workers take informal routes due to the state’s restrictions on women going abroad for job.

The given causes of death are cardiac arrest, heart attack, natural death, suicide, traffic accident and work place accident. Almost all of the deceased were domestic workers.

Government officials do not wholly buy the reports claiming that the number and reported causes of death are ‘unbelievable’ considering the nature of work.

“There could be hidden reasons behind these deaths as female domestic workers usually work indoors, which in theory is safer than the working environment for men such as outdoor construction and farming,” said an FEPB source.

It is hard to find reliable evidences of the living and working conditions of domestic female workers in the Gulf as the governments restrict their right to organise and deny media access to households.

Rights groups and experts say the Nepali government has not been doing enough to ensure safe migration or exert pressure on the labour destination to respect fundamental rights by amending discriminatory laws.

Nepal has not signed a separate labour pact for female workers with any labour-receiving country though an estimated 300,000 Nepali women are currently working across the Middle East.

Accumulated data from Nepali embassies in Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan and Lebanon show some 100 women are being rescued every month.

The Nepali mission in Saudi Arabia said it rescues 30 women on an average every month from the oil-rich kingdom that is home to some 70,000 Nepali women.

Recent reports of rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch show domestic workers in the Gulf are exposed to forced-labour, under-pay, physical violence and sexual exploitation often without the possibilities of legal redress.

“Women who find themselves in abusive households face utterly miserable conditions. They have few options—if they choose simply to get out of the house, they will be branded runaway, putting them at the risk of being arrested, detained and deported on the charge of absconding,” reads an AI report on domestic workers released on Wednesday.

Women who report sexual abuse from their employers also risk being charged with illicit relation, says the report based on women migrants’ experience in Qatar.

An increasing number of Nepali women are going aboard for jobs in a dream of better future even without moral and legal support from their families and state.

A recent study on trafficking conducted by University of Sheffield shows a large number of women are migrating via informal networks and personal connection.

The trend, the research concludes, is risky and expensive, does not guarantee job placement, and is often controlled by agents that are not officially registered.

“The government has largely failed to fight trafficking due to the apparent gap in the current policy and interventions,” said Sara Devkota, a member of the research team led by Prof Paul Bissell.

Published: 27-04-2014 08:48

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