Slaving away

  • Govt has proven toothless, instead of taking strong position to protect migrant workers

Nov 10, 2017-

The injustices visited upon Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf have often made headlines, with a number of reports highlighting the pitiful state of an estimated one million of our migrants in the region. The government may be taking steps to curb these human rights violations, but recent events have clearly shown that efforts are making minimal headway in protecting workers. 

Anita Shakya died while trying to escape confinement in Kuwait. She was being held captive by a manpower agent and died when she jumped out of a window. Shakya’s death is the fifth that has occurred in the Gulf nation this past month. Four Nepali housemaids died prior to Shakya’s fatal attempt to escape.

Investigation has revealed that Shakya was trafficked to Kuwait via India on October 16. Human traffickers use a number of channels to traffic women into the country, aided by the fact that the Kuwait government has legalised the entry of foreign domestic workers. The Nepali state has been unable to take any action against traffickers, proving to be largely toothless when it should be taking a strong and judicious stance in protecting nationals. 

Remittances form the backbone of our economy, accounting for almost a third of it. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that this boost is occurring at the cost of Nepali nationals abroad. More than 5,000 Nepali migrants have died while working abroad since 2008, according to a report by the International Labour Organisation. And between 2008 and 2015, the cause of death of 795 Nepalis could not be ascertained. 

A report released in August by the International Relations and Labour Committee of Parliament revealed that the Foreign Ministry turned a blind eye to reports by Nepali missions in the Gulf pointing out dozens of individuals and companies involved in human trafficking; the ministry also failed to forward these reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs to initiate action against the guilty. Also detailed was how migrant workers in the Gulf region are often denied full salaries, forced to work excessively long hours, often without breaks or days off, and in squalid conditions. For their part, the Foreign Ministry officials and Nepali diplomats claim that they are severely short of human resources to follow individual cases. 

The government may have announced amendments to the Foreign Employment Act 2008, making families of injured, diseased or deceased migrant workers eligible to claim compensation a year after the termination of the workers contract with employers. And the compensation for families of deceased migrant workers and life insurance coverage may have been increased. But it is obvious that there is a need for greater measures to ensure the protection of migrant workers. There’s a growing body of evidence that the Gulf countries need to do better, and effective support from Nepal and international organisations advocating for the welfare of the workers would go a long way in protecting the voiceless Nepalis.

Published: 10-11-2017 07:50

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