Kathmandu Post


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migrant workers in a fix

  • Ministries zeroing in on 86 agents

KATHMANDU, DEC 15 - The government is gearing up to arrest over 86 ‘human traffickers’ who are sending aspiring Nepali women migrant workers to the Gulf and the Middle East.

Officials said they have identified the traffickers, who have been working from Nepal and India. However, they refused to disclose the names citing ‘security reasons’.

If the allegation against them is proved, they could get up to 7 years in jail as per the Foreign Employment Act and around 15 years on an average if charged under the Trafficking Act. However, the sentence depends on the nature of crime and the culprit’s role.

The identities of these traffickers were first traced by the Nepali embassy in Saudi Arabia based on the information provided by the victims the embassy had rescued over the past one year. The embassy had compiled profiles of the traffickers and affiliated organisations.

Purna Chandra Bhattarai, director of the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), said the concerned ministries—Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA)—are coordinating efforts for the action. The responsibility to arrest the accused comes under the jurisdiction of the Central Bureau of Investigation under the MoHA while the department or foreign employment tribunal under the MoLE investigates the nature of crime and takes it to the court.

MoFA officials say they will take action if they are asked. The Foreign Ministry could assist as a bridge between the government and the embassies and other countries to find the accused.

On November 19, the Post published a story about the failure of the government to punish the accused despite their identification. Bhattarai has cited confusion over the jurisdiction of the concerned offices for the delay.

Nepal’s mission in Saudi Arabia was unhappy when the government did not act upon its recommendation. “Checking these unauthorised agents could help reduce the smuggling of the workers to a large extent,” say officials at the embassy.

In the aftermath of the government’s age bar on female migrant workers, an unprecedented number of women are going abroad via Indian and Bangladeshi airports and through the notorious ‘airport setting’ process at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

In the past year, records show that a total of 433 victimised women sought refuge with the Nepali embassy in Saudi Arabia.

The embassy sent them back home. Since the Kafala (sponsorship) system practised in Saudi Arabia and some other Islamic nations authorises employers to suppress employees, migrant workers are always exposed to higher risks. The law bars even the rights groups and the embassy from inspecting the condition of the workers, making it impossible to rescue the victims in need.

Besides the problems of overwork, low wages, physical assaults, and discrimination they face in the workplace, many are not even allowed to eat, contact their family members and return to the country at their will.

Posted on: 2012-12-16 08:21

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