Remittance has helped sustain Nepalese economy, but the price Nepalese youths are paying is too high. Now, we must act and get heard
It’s been 9 years since Nepal witnessed one of the darkest days in its history “the killing of 12 innocent Nepali citizens” in Iraq. This was one of the extreme consequences of Nepalese international labour migration, where Nepali youth lost their lives in search of an employment abroad due to dodgy manpower companies. Although the Government of Nepal has banned the Nepalese workers from going to Iraq, recruitment agencies have not stopped putting impoverished Nepalese workers’ lives at risk. The recent exposure by The Guardian, a leading British newspaper, of the death and slavery of Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar is one more example of it.
On Wednesday, 25th September, when I read in The Guardian that at least 44 Nepalese workers died in Qatar between 4 June and 8 August, 2013-- at the rate of almost one per day-- and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, I couldn’t watch the whole video as it was too painful to continue. You could see Nepali workers suffering an unimaginable abuse and exploitation in the 21st century international labour market. The most painful was to see the body of 16-year-old Ganesh Bishwakarma returning to Nepal in red coffin box within few weeks of his departure to Qatar with the dream of earning money to support his impoverished family. Ganesh now has left behind his grieving parents with a huge debt they had borrowed to pay to recruitment agent. My heart was heavy, my eyes filled with tears and I wanted to act but felt so helpless. I am sure, I am not the only one but that every Nepali reading and watching this news might have gone through similar emotions.
It is estimated that more than three million Nepali youths are currently involved in overseas employment, contributing significantly to the country's economy and rural livelihoods. It is recorded that the remittance of Rs 210 billion enters the country every year contributing 22 per cent to Nepal’s the gross domestic product, which has helped reduce the country's poverty considerably. However, for this Nepalese youths are paying a heavy price-- tolerating inhumane treatment and exploitation especially in the Gulf States and even their lives.
Nepali migrant workers are basically exploited in a three way. The first exploitation is from the manpower agencies in Nepal that heavily exploit rural youths financially. The second is from the manpower companies of the host nations that decide salary and working place for migrant workers. The third way is the massive exploitation from the companies where they work under extreme conditions and climate.
The Guardian’s reporting is only a small picture of abuse and exploitation of Nepali migrant workers in the tiny desert Kingdom of Qatar, the wider picture of abuse and exploitation that of both men and women in other Gulf nations is still absent from international media coverage. The simple truth is the world media cares less about a small poor country’s citizens being abused and exploited to death by rich Gulf nations. What they really care about is Qatar's preparations to host the 2022 World Cup and the fact that it might be built on appalling working conditions, labour abuse, exploitation and forced labour.
This is because the World Cup- a soccer tournament held every four years between national soccer teams to determine a world champion-- is supposed to signify sportsmanship, fair-play and harmony amongst all nations. Hence, it would be a big shame for the world if it failed to protect the rights of the labourers who are working to build stadiums, roads and hotels for the sports persons and visitors.
However, this is a favourable time for us to act to stop such slavery of our fellow citizens in Qatar because after the revelation of deaths and brutal exploitation of Nepalese migrant workers by The Guardian - one of the World’s leading media houses, the news has dominated many other major mainstream television, radio and newspapers in the UK and it is now unveiling around the world as well. This is building a huge pressure on Qatar from FIFA and other international communities to make urgent reforms in accordance with the rights granted to immigrant workers by various international conventions. Many international communities and activists have already expressed their deep concerns on this including UN and FIFA.
This is a great opportunity for Nepal to gather support from international communities to fight for Nepalese migrant workers’ rights in Qatar, who make up the highest number of migrant workers i.e. 40 per cent of total workforce there but are lowest paid. We cannot afford to lose such an opportunity to raise our voices before the international community and we may never get such an opportunity again. Therefore, we MUST act now to be heard.
If your heart feels heavy and your eyes get wet seeing our sisters and brothers facing immense exploitation and many returning in red coffin boxes from the Gulf States and you want to act against such exploitation and slavery then please sign the petition “End slavery of Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar” filed by Karma Tenzing Nyangmi at http://chn.ge/16INiFR . Together we can make it happen.