Kin of unpaid workers in Saudi appeal for help

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Nov 13, 2016-

Families of more than 500 Nepali migrants working in Saudi Arabia have registered complaints at the Department of Foreign Employment, asking the government to facilitate their repatriation. Those stranded in the Gulf kingdom are helpless after their employers stopped paying them.

Hundreds of companies in Saudi Arabia have closed down in recent months due to slowed growth as the kingdom suffers the effects of lower 

oil prices while many others have been unable to pay wages to workers.

More than 4,000 Nepalis have pleaded for help through embassies or other agencies such as the department, Hello Sarkar and Nepal police. 

Officials said the exact number of stranded workers 

may be much higher as many do not approach the embassy or authorities due to constraints including the lack of access to communication facilities.

Saudi Arabia, host to an estimated 600,000 Nepalis, was the largest recipient of Nepali workers in the fiscal year 2015-16. The country hired a total of 138,529 Nepalis in the past year alone.

“Complaints from Saudi Arabia accounted for more than 75 percent of the total received by the department. They were mostly related to nonpayment of wages,” said Govinda Prasad Upadhyaya, who heads the complaint department at the DoFE.

All the complaints are against the recruiting agencies here, asking them to arrange travel permits and air tickets after payment of wages. Some workers have also sought assistance in finding a new sponsor.

In the wake of the massive lay-off, the countries that provide the migrant workforce--India, Bangladesh and Pakistan for example--are reportedly witnessing a huge surge of returnees from Saudi Arabia.

“The problem related to nonpayment of wages is particularly high in Saudi due to the economic crisis created by plummeting oil prices. We are also facing similar problems elsewhere in the region,” 

said Tanka Raut, former vice-chairman of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies.

Despite announcement of the Saudi government to send stranded workers back home after paying their dues, very few workers have actually benefitted so far.

Nepal’s embassy in Riyadh has said that Saudi authorities have agreed to help both with finding new sponsors for workers willing to stay in the kingdom and arrange for travel permits for those planning to return home.

Under the Kafala sponsorship system, it is mandatory for migrant workers to find new sponsors to change jobs. Those willing to leave the country need the sponsor’s permission to take exit visa.

Published: 13-11-2016 08:18

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