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Nepali Migrant Workers in Vicious Cycle of Debt and Exploitation

53% of workers report lower monthly salaries than what was promised by recruitment agents

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Nepali Migrant Workers in Vicious Cycle of Debt and Exploitation

A new research report by the renowned human rights organization, Amnesty International (AI), raised deep concerns being faced by Nepali migrant workers.

The survey carried out on Nepali migrant labor in Malaysia and Nepal concluded that almost two-thirds of survey respondents had to pay high and illegal recruitment fees to the recruitment agencies for foreign employment.

88% of the respondents in mobile phone survey of 414 Nepali migrant workers reported payment of fees to agents for overseas jobs. “Because these fees are so high, the majority had to borrow more than half the sum from village moneylenders, placing them in debt,” the report noted.


To meet such high demands of the middlemen, many workers are finding no way other than limiting themselves to low-paid jobs or remain exploited to clear their debts.

“Workers’ calculations about how they will repay these loans are often derailed by unpaid wages or other forms of labor exploitation,” concluded the report.

More than 53 percent of the surveyed reported lower monthly salaries than what was promised by the recruitment agents.

A Special Case

Such situation was reportedly found in case of Nepali migrant labor in Qatar working for the construction of stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Nepali migrant workers to Qatar working in the project are reportedly facing vicious cycle of debt and exploitation, the report noted.

Nepali Migrant Workers in Vicious Cycle of Debt and Exploitation_Nepal Migrant Concerns

Nepali labor working in Qatar are facing exploitation

This report comes as an additional pressure to FIFA that has been facing internal pressure from its advisory board with regard to Kafala System, a mechanism used in Gulf countries to monitor migrant labor and is often termed as ‘modern-day slavery’.

“Companies who employ migrant workers in the Gulf and Malaysia directly or through their suppliers or subcontractors also have a responsibility. They need to take steps to prevent exploitative labor recruitment,” said AI in its release.

AI further urged the concerned companies to ensure migrants, who have paid recruitment fees, are reimbursed. “Until they take action, they are reinforcing the debt trap that is destroying so many lives in Nepal,” the release added.

Weak Enforcement Laws

Stating that “Nepali migrant workers are being systematically and mercilessly set up,” the Deputy Director of AI’s Global Issues Program James Lynch noted that weak enforcement of relevant laws by the Nepali Government is resulting in this situation.

“Migrant workers all too often end up trapped in the soul-destroying situation of working abroad for years simply to pay off the huge, often illegal fees they were charged to take the job,” James added.

“Nepali Government’s failure to crack down on recruitment agencies, which charge illegal fees for jobs abroad, is leaving migrant workers trapped in a vicious cycle of debt and exploitation,” the report concluded.

This situation is seen despite the presence of governmental policies like ‘Free Visa, Free Ticket’ introduced in July 2015, and only 20% of the surveyed reported proper implementation of the same.

Deep Exploitation

After an analysis and review of 100 Nepali recruitment websites, AI found that that Nepali labor are being advertised as ‘loyal and completely dedicated to work even in adverse situations’.

“Disturbingly, some of these recruiters – who trap workers into bonded labor by saddling them with huge debts – market Nepali workers to prospective foreign clients by highlighting how unlikely they are to leave their jobs,” highlighted the report.

Matter of Urgency

Matter of Emergency_Nepal Migrant Workers

Nepal is working with other labor-sending nations to address migrant workers concerns

Terming this as a matter of urgency, James Lynch urged the Nepali government and businesses to take necessary measures and control corruption in the Nepali recruitment industry to protect migrant workers.

“A good start would be to penalize recruitment agencies that are not complying with the law. Until companies take action, they are reinforcing the debt trap that is destroying so many lives in Nepal,” he added.

In line with the report, Bhuban K.C., a senior official in Nepali Labor Ministry, has reportedly informed that Nepal is working with other labor-sending nations like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka towards necessary measures to protect migrant workers’ interests.

“We are raising our voice internationally to ensure that migrants are not cheated,” said Bhuban while also informing that the concerned authorities are offering compensations to the victims.

December 19, 2017 |

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