Exploitation of Nepal's Migrant Workers

May 8, 2012

Nepal migrant workers
Families of migrant workers in Morang district, Nepal, 2011, who were interviewed by Amnesty International.

 “Migrant workers from Nepal and other countries are like cattle in Kuwait.  Actually, cattle are probably more expensive than migrant workers there.  No one cares whether we die or are killed. Our lives have no value.” –N.R., domestic worker from Ilam district, Nepal

Anyone who has waited for a flight at Kathmandu, Nepal’s international airport has seen the large groups of men and women quietly lining up to board flights for Qatar or Malaysia, many appearing nervous, clutching only their papers or a small bag of belongings.

But the men and women boarding these flights have reason to be nervous. While some Nepalese migrant workers arrive in the destination country and earn decent wages, others end up in forced labor or exploitative conditions.

These are some of the estimated 25,000 people a month who leave Nepal for work abroad to escape poverty and unemployment at home and to send remittances back to their families in Nepal.

Amnesty details the exploitation of workers by unscrupulous Nepalese employment agencies who charge exorbitant fees and often deceive workers about the jobs, salary, and conditions of work to which they are agreeing. Already deeply in debt to pay the outrageous fees of recruitment agencies, many feel compelled to accept any employment that is offered. Others, especially women, face exploitation as sex workers.

Once abroad, some labor at back-breaking construction jobs for 12 hours a day in the heat of the desert; others work grueling hours in factories with no days off; and some end up as virtual slaves trapped in private homes as domestic helpers. One woman described her harrowing experience working as a domestic worker in Kuwait in this way:

“I was tortured, hit with belts, starved and locked in the toilet all night.”

It shouldn’t be this way. Working abroad can be safe if the Government of Nepal were to enforce its own legislation and regulate rogue employment agencies.  Governments in the receiving countries must also do more to protect migrant workers

Please sign the online petition calling on Nepal’s political parties to take urgent steps to protect the rights and lives of Nepalese migrant workers.