UN expert calls for better protection against abuse and exploitation for Nepali workers seeking foreign employment
Kathmandu, 5 February (2018) – “I recognize that Nepal has made progress in ensuring protection of the rights of its citizens migrating to work abroad by introducing relevant legislation and policy, but protection gaps continue to exist in the legislation, and challenges in enforcement, implementation and monitoring remain”, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants found at the end of his first official visit to Nepal.
Mr. Felipe González Morales recognized an increased awareness on the part of the State on the need to address these issues in a comprehensive manner, including through coordination between different Ministries and governmental agencies. He urged the Government to take further steps to prevent the abuse that Nepali migrants suffer during recruitment, while working abroad and upon returning to Nepal. Some estimates suggest more than 1,500 Nepali workers leave the country every day. Many are seeking to escape poverty and discrimination, especially women, members of minority groups, and people with no land or few job prospects.
“Malpractice by private recruitment agencies, non-regulated sub-agents, as well as the lack of enforcement and monitoring of national legislation and policy, lead to exploitative and abusive situations for Nepali migrant workers, including situations of forced labour, debt bondage and labour trafficking,” the Special Rapporteur said in a statement.
With insufficient enforcement of policies to cut recruitment fees, many workers take out loans – often with excessive interest rates – to pay the fees, leaving them more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and seriously decreasing the benefits of migration, Mr. González Morales said.
“I encourage Nepal to ensure that complaints of abuse of migrants are taken seriously and handled effectively through the judicial system, including at the local level. The prospects of a decentralisation process should be a catalyst for improvement in this regard,” he said.
The Special Rapporteur also urged improvements in training programmes for workers before they leave, stating that “information on their rights and how to seek redress is of utmost importance to facilitate access to justice for migrants.”
“Consular assistance in destination countries is often insufficient to provide information and facilitate legal support to Nepali nationals in destination countries,” Mr. González Morales noted, calling for further deployment of labour attachés, including women.
“Nepal needs to increase its engagement with destination countries to ensure its nationals do not suffer abuse and exploitation,” he said, proposing negotiations across the region to enable a shift to ethical recruitment.
Women – most of whom are domestic workers – are more exposed to abuse and exploitation, he said, but this does not justify discriminatory rules – allegedly established to protect them- which prevent some women, such as those with young children, from working abroad.
“Other avenues on how to better protect domestic workers need to be explored. Prohibition drives migration further underground and many Nepalese women use irregular channels to migrate, which renders them even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” the Special Rapporteur said.
He also encouraged Nepal to recognize the reasons why people migrate, tackle discrimination, and create more income-generating opportunities, including for returning migrants.
During his eight-day visit, Mr. González Morales met representatives of the Government, the United Nations, the National Human Rights Commission, the diplomatic community, civil society organizations, trade unions, recruitment agencies, and families of migrants and migrants themselves in Kathmandu, Kailali and Morang district. He will present a full report to the UN Human Rights Council in June.