Human distressGovt needs to do more to protect migrant workers in the Gulf region
A report released on Tuesday by a sub-committee of the International Relations and Labour Committee of Parliament has revealed the government’s complete disregard towards curbing human trafficking, painting an extremely disturbing picture. Based on a field study on the situation of Nepali workers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, the report reveals that the government has been sorely remiss in its duties of taking a strong and judicious stance to protect its nationals.
The committee has brought to light the shocking fact that the Foreign Ministry has turned a blind eye to several reports issued by Nepali missions in the Gulf pointing out dozens of individuals and companies involved in human trafficking; it also failed to forward these reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs to initiate action against the guilty. What’s more, the report also highlights the pitiful state of an estimated 1 million Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf region. This is based on information received from interviews with 1,000 Nepali women workers. Migrant workers have been denied full salaries, forced to work excessively long hours, often without breaks or days off, and in squalid conditions. Some are subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse from their employers. To begin with, the fact that none of the state bodies have exact information detailing the number and state of Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf is a glaring inadequacy on the part of our government.
The committee’s report was released on the heels of an ambitious foreign policy work plan unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara. The aim of the plan is to level up Nepal’s international stature. That this plan was revealed while the abuse and exploitation of migrant domestic workers is continuing apace and with complete indifference on the part of a state body is appalling.
While it would not be wise to impose a blanket ban on Nepali domestic help from taking up gainful employment opportunities abroad, the government has a number of other options to pursue in order to safeguard Nepali migrant workers. Measures should be adopted to enhance the migration experience, like the stronger protection of migrant workers, safer working conditions, easier access to credit and better investment opportunities for remittances. Nepal’s medium to long term focus should be on industrialisation so as to be less dependent on remittances, which currently account for one-third of the country’s GDP. The plight of migrant workers is not something to be ignored, especially by those who are specifically charged with safeguarding the populace.