Stating that the illegal status of both male and female migrant workers was hindering safe migration initiatives, Nepali Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Udaya Raj Pandey has urged the government to curb illegal departures via India and other countries.
Although exact data are not available, the Nepali mission in Saudi Arabia estimates the number of illegal migrant workers to be around 150,000—60,000 of them Nepali women. They entered Saudi Arabia mostly via India and Bangladesh and through the infamous setting process at the Tribhuvan International Airport, according to officials.
Speaking at a press meet on Thursday in Kathmandu, Pandey said that the entry of undocumented migrant workers is a pressing issue. “Many workers are coming to Saudi Arabia through Indian manpower companies that work closely with Nepali middlemen,” said Pandey. Workers who enter unlawfully have to face a series of negative consequences like low wages, lack of access to legal remedies and the denial of minimum services and welfare.
Stakeholders claim that the number of migrants travelling via third countries, especially India, could be as high as those leaving through the TIA. The Post in September reported quoting Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA) officials that around 400-500 Nepali workers leave via Indian airports every day. Officials claim that 700 people leave for the Gulf every day on an average through the TIA. Representatives from the Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) verified the NAFEA claim.
A major reason for migrants leaving via third countries is that many of the destination countries do not have embassies in Nepal. Other reasons include flying costs, legal hassles and the lack of a proper monitoring mechanism. Officials at the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) said that a small section of workers travel through Indian routes after obtaining accreditation from government authorities. The majority, on the other hand, is smuggled out on visit visas or false contract papers.
Female migrants aside—they predominantly leave through third countries as the government has barred women from migrating for domestic works abroad, others leaving via India include workers residing along Nepal’s southern border.
“It’s financially and culturally easier for people living alongside the Indian border to travel through the airports of the neighboring country,” said Ram Kaji Koney, former chairman of NATTA. With relatively cheaper air tickets and various other advantages, Koney claimed, around 150-200 migrant workers leave every day via Lucknow and Delhi airports alone.
“Additionally, those possessing individual visas, visit visas or those going for re-service choose the Indian route,” said NAFEA General Secretary Kumud Khanal. He claimed that Indian agents muscling in on prospective Nepali workers has been a major NAFEA concern of late. As Nepal is not host to any of the embassies of the major destination countries, except for Malaysia, workers often find it easier to obtain visas and leave through India.
Pandey, whose office also looks after the neighbouring nations of Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain and Sudan, said that the problem is the same everywhere. He claimed that the Nepali embassy in Saudi Arabia was raising awareness among workers about the hazards of unsafe migration.
“We have been closely coordinating with the Nepali community in the destination countries and disseminating information through websites, telephone, books, pamphlets and other means,” said Pandey. Controlling the exodus of workers via third country routes and ensuring the proper monitoring of the workers in the destination countries could be a lucrative source of government revenue. It would help stakeholders like NAFEA and NATTA with their businesses as well. Records show that a total of 500,000 Nepali workers are working in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the Nepali mission in Saudi Arabia wrote to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the DoFE urging strict action against 80 agents who were involved in trafficking female workers via India.
Posted on: 2012-11-09 08:53