(Vatican Radio) A leading human rights organization has accused the government of Nepal for failing to crack down on unscrupulous job recruitment agencies and private recruiters that extort poor migrant workers and leave them at the risk of forced labour abroad and crippling debt. Around 20 percent of the impoverished Himalayan nation's almost 29 million people are migrant workers in the Middle East, as well as countries such as Malaysia and South Korea -generating remittances that make up a quarter of Nepal's GDP. “Migrant workers contribute nearly a third of Nepal’s GDP in money they send back home, yet the government spends a tiny fraction of its budget on their needs,” said Amnesty International in a report published on 6 June.
“All over Nepal, unscrupulous recruiters are getting away with destroying lives – illegally charging aspiring job-seekers exorbitant fees to get jobs abroad, and then abandoning them overseas when things go wrong,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues programme. “It is only when they leave Nepal that migrant workers find out that they have been deceived about everything from salary to working conditions,” Lynch said. “By then it is far too late and many end up with recruitment debts that may take the rest of their working lives to pay off.”
The report titled, “Turning People into Profits: Abusive Recruitment, Trafficking and Forced Labour of Nepali Migrant Workers,” included interviews with 127 Nepali migrant workers and dozens of government officials in 2016 and 2017, in eight districts of Nepal. Almost all workers the organization spoke to had been subject to some form of abuse at the hands of private recruiters. The London-based rights watchdog found many migrants were being forced to borrow money, with interest rates of up to 35 percent, to pay shady recruitment firms who ended up cheating them with false promises. Amnesty found victims paid on average $1,350 to recruitment firms for jobs abroad - nearly double the limit permitted under Nepali law. Once overseas, the migrants often had their passports confiscated by employers and did not get contracts – leaving them open to exploitation such as long working hours, little freedom of movement, and even forced labour. (Source: Amnesty International/ Reuters Thomson Foundation)