Print Edition - 2016-12-19  |  News

Migrant workers continue to suffer appalling treatment

  • International migrants day
- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu

Dec 19, 2016-

On November 9, 45-year-old Govinda Gyawali of Beltaksar, Gulmi, was waiting in a long queue alongside around 6,000 other fellow migrant workers on the Department of Foreign Employment premises at Soltimode to obtain the government’s approval to work abroad. 

Gyawali was in the process to rejoin a company in Qatar where he had worked for nearly five years, after spending a month-long vacation with his wife and two 

daughters.  

Gyawali, who previously worked in Malaysia for three years, was planning to start up something of his own in Nepal with the savings from his stints as a migrant worker.

However, it was not to be. Something unexpected happened that day while he was in queue. 

Having waited for hours in queue, Gyawali suddenly fell unconscious to the ground. Hours later, Jyoti Hospital pronounced him dead. The postmortem report says the cause of death is undetermined, according to Kalimati Police Circle. 

“He looked alright until we reached the hospital. But he died just after laying in the hospital bed,” said Chakra Pujara, a police official who was in charge of the case. 

Gyawali’s relatives and bystanders blamed negligence on part of the Department of Foreign Employment for his death. On the week of his death, the DoFE was getting an unusually high number of applicants. Alongside fresh lots of migrant workers, tens of thousands more, who were on leave, were in the process of returning back to their job destinations after Dashain and Tihar festivals. On the other hand, the DoFE was running short in hand as many of its staffers had not rejoined the office from the leave.   

Police officials said that Gyawali, who reportedly had high blood pressure, had been standing in queue for several hours under the blazing sun. 

“He was trying to renew work permit for the past several days. He was talking about long queues at the DoFE,” said Gokarna Prasad Gyawali, a relative of the deceased. 

Gyawali’s case: A tip of iceberg 

Though it is unclear whether the DoFE was complicit in Gyawali’s death, stories like his are not uncommon in Nepal. An estimated 3.5 million Nepalis migrant workers are working in various labour destinations. Hundreds of physically fit Nepali migrants die each year both at home and abroad, due partly to their own negligence and that of the authorities of labour sending and receiving countries. According to data accumulated by the Post from Nepali missions in various labour destination countries, at least 10,000 Nepali migrant workers have died while working abroad. More than 8,000 of these deaths were recorded in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—the three largest work destinations of Nepali migrants. 

Worse still, many more Nepali migrants return home with bitter experiences after enduring severe forms of physical and economic exploitation at the hands of agents, traffickers and even employers—most of them without getting legal redress. 

Despite the country’s increasing dependence on foreign employment, Nepal has been doing precious little to ensure the migrant workers’ safety and their physical and mental well-being.

Though remittance from Nepal’s overseas workforce makes up nearly 30 percent of the country’s GDP, the government has been spending little on welfare of migrants and their families. It has been spending even less to make the government services accessible to prospective workers. The DoFE has around 200 people on its 

payroll to provide service to around 2,500 workers each day.

Nepal allows its citizens to go to work in 110 countries, it has embassies only in 20 countries. There are hardly 60 staffers in six embassies across the Gulf region and in Malaysia. More than 75 percent of the migrants leave the country without any skills. In the absence of proper regulatory mechanism, many illiterate migrants, who make the majority of Nepal’s workforce, are handed down fake health, training and orientation certificates, turning their overseas dreams into a nightmare. The situation is likely to worsen if the government fails to intervene in time, experts warn. 

“The foreign employment sector is in a big mess right now. The government lacks both vision and plans. We need a major overhaul in policies for welfare of migrants and returnees that keeps migrants on priority,” Ganesh Gurung, an expert on migration affairs and a former member of the National Planning Commission, 

told the Post in a recent interview.

 

Gloomy data

-    An estimated 3.5 million Nepalis migrant workers are working in various labour destinations. More than 75 percent of the migrants leave the country without any skills 

-    More than 10,000 Nepali migrant workers have died while working abroad. More than 8,000 of these deaths were recorded in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar--the three largest work destinations of Nepali migrants  

-    Remittance from Nepal’s overseas workforce makes up nearly 30 percent of the country’s GDP, but the government has been spending little on welfare of migrants and their families

-    The DoFE has only 200 people on its payroll to serve around 2,500 workers each day

-    Nepal allows its citizens to go to work in 110 countries, it has embassies only in 20 countries. There are hardly 60 staffers in six embassies across the Gulf region and in Malaysia. 

Published: 19-12-2016 07:41

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