Rogue Nepalese recruitment agencies are trafficking Nepalese for exploitation and forced labour in the Gulf States and Malaysia, Amnesty International said on 13th December,2011 in a new report, as it called on the Nepalese government to improve protection of its migrant workers. A research report titled "False Promises : Exploitation and Forced Labor of Nepali Migrant workers' released by Amnesty International in Katmandu points out that majority of migrant workers are not given salary as per their contract, forced to work without a rest day, are locked up and physically abused.
'Many foreign employment recruitment agencies in the country have been found to be deceiving Nepali migrant workers even before they reach the countries of their destination', the report said.
Of the 150 returnees and prospective migrant workers interviewed for the report, more than 90 per cent of them said that they were deceived by recruitment agencies and brokers on the fundamental aspects of their contract.
Speaking on the event organized to launch the report, Amnesty International's Researcher on Asia-Pacific Migrants' Rights, Norma Kang Muico said if the Government of Nepal gives priority to safe migration then that would benefit thousands of workers and their families every year, and would also benefit the economy if it takes initiative to protect its citizens abroad.
According to the report findings recruitment agencies have been charging on an average Rs. 100,000 as service fees from the migrant workers, which is three times more than the average annual income of Nepal in 2010. A total of 294,094 Nepali workers left home for foreign employment in 2010, and the number was 55,025 in 2000.
Likewise, majority of the Nepali migrant workers end up in construction, production and domestic work in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.
Speaking at the program, Director General of the Department of Foreign Employment, Purna Chandra Bhattarai made it clear that the Government was working despite its limited resources to fully enforce the Foreign Employment Act and its regulations in order to make foreign employment safe and dignified.
On the occasion president of Foreign Employment Association Nepal Prem Bahadur Katuwal rejected that they have not been regulated and monitored by the law.
Amnesty International documented cases where migrants were also beaten, threatened and had their freedom of movement restricted by employers in destination countries. Migrants facing exploitation or forced labor who sought assistance from Nepalese recruitment agencies or the government authorities received little support.
The report said that recruitment agencies even endorsed employers’ common practice of confiscating passports, which facilitates abuse. “Migrant women face restrictions to working abroad which increase their vulnerability,” Muico said, adding that intermittent bans on domestic work and a requirement to seek family permission prior to migrating, force women to migrate through irregular channels or become ‘undocumented’.
But Amnesty International’s research found evidence of violations of the law by recruitment agencies, including failure to provide contracts, changing terms and conditions and overcharging for services. But the government is failing to enforce the legislation, and no recruitment agency has been punished.
Migrant workers also have rights under the Act to compensation when their terms and conditions have not been met, yet few are aware of existing mechanisms for complaint and redress.
“If the government prioritises safe migration, it will benefit hundreds of thousands and their families each year,” Muico said, adding that it is imperative that the government acts to protect its citizens abroad which can also benefit Nepal’s economy.
The government must end impunity for rogue recruitment agencies and fully enforce the Foreign Employment Act, the report said. Amnesty International also called on the government to do more to ensure that compensation mechanisms are accessible and effective. “Many migrant workers are in the dark about their rights and don’t know who they can turn to for help. "The authorities must ensure those working abroad and their families are properly informed about the migration process," she said.
Between September 2010 and May 2011, Amnesty International interviewed 149 returned or prospective migrant workers and met seven recruitment agencies and numerous government officials. On the report release program Director of AI Nepal Rameshwar Nepal, Victim of foreign employment Dinesh Adhikari and Puspa Bahadur Ghale also have spoken regarding the issue.