Nepal to host regional conference to protect migrants’ rights

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Feb 8, 2016-

The government is planning to organise a South Asian ministerial-level conference in Kathmandu to explore possible areas of cooperation to ensure protection and promotion of the rights of migrant labourers of the region.

South Asia is home to 36 million migrant workers, including an estimated four million Nepalis, who work mostly in the Gulf and Malaysia.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment, the organiser, has said that the conference would be attended by labour ministers from South Asia. Ministry Spokesperson Govinda Mani Bhurtel said the date of the meet would be decided by a Cabinet meeting. He said the ministry proposes holding the conference by the end of March.

“The conference will seek possible areas of collaboration among the South Asian nations in the protection and promotion of the rights of labourers and migrant workers as agreed among the heads of states during the last Saarc summit,” said Bhurtel.

During the 18th summit of the regional grouping held in Kathmandu in November last year, heads of governments had agreed to work for protection and promotion of the rights of workers both in the region and beyond.

In a 36-point joint declaration issued before the conclusion of the summit, Saarc leaders had agreed “to collaborate and cooperate on safe, orderly and responsible management of labour migration from South Asia to ensure safety, security and wellbeing of their migrant workers in the destination countries outside the region”.

Labour Ministry officials said the conference would work on a regional framework for collective bargaining to press the labour receiving countries to end exploitation and abuse of the migrant workers. 

Such a regional framework could make a significant difference as South Asia is the largest supplier of migrant workers to the Persian Gulf and Malaysia. However, rights groups say South Asians are receiving far worse treatment than nationals from the South East Asian countries in terms of pay and facilities.

Experts think that Saarc countries should work together for ensuring safety, security and rights of migrant workers, while jointly combating human trafficking and other anomalies surrounding the foreign employment industry.

“The conference will also seek broader cooperation in ensuring safety, security and rights of migrant workers working within South Asia,” said a senior official at the Department of Foreign Employment.

South Asian governments’ failure to regulate inter-regional migration has forced millions of people to face abuse and exploitation within the region. Though exact data are hard to come by, estimates show nearly 2 million Nepalis migrate seasonally to India for job. An equal number of Indians and thousands of Bangladeshis are working in Nepal.

The conference would also seek areas of cooperation to combat human trafficking using the member countries as transit. Human traffickers and smugglers are trafficking thousands of Nepalis including women using India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as transit promising better jobs and lucrative pays.

Published: 08-02-2016 08:52

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