HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Government data reveals that one in every 162 Nepali migrant workers who enter Saudi Arabia dies while working in extreme conditions and a totally different cultural environment.
According to the Nepali embassy in Riyadh, around 3,000 deaths have been reported there since 2000. During the period, 484,701 Nepalis migrated to Saudi Arabia to work.
Food habits and hot climate are responsible for loss of Nepali lives in Saudi Arabia, Nepali ambassador in Riyadh Udaya Raj Pandey told The Himalayan Times. Lack of job and cultural orientation is also a factor, he added.
According to Pandey, though liquor is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, excessive consumption of alcohol is a major cause of death among Nepalis, who buy liquor in the black market. He said he had been there for eight months and every month 20 to 30 Nepalis die due to excessive drinking. Many of them consume alcohol to tackle work weariness, drink before they go to bed and die in their sleep. Other causes are workplace and road accidents.
Though the government provides orientation to workers, it is insufficient. "They need country and job specific orientation," said Mahendra Pandey, president of Parvasi Nepali Coordination Committee, which works for safe migration of workers. According to him, the government should strictly monitor outsourcing agencies, make diplomatic missions aware about labour issues and provide sufficient budget for the rescue and welfare of workers. "We still do not have a separate budget for migrant workers facing difficulties," he said.
He said the government should allocate at least Rs 100 million to ensure rescue and legal aid for migrants who face trouble. There are more than 200 Nepalis in Saudi jails seeking legal aid but the government is doing nothing for them.
Labour expert Chiranjivi Nepal echoed Pandey's views. He said besides proper orientation, the Labour Ministry should establish strong monitoring system to regulate the sector. He said manpower agents should ensure fair treatment for migrant workers, as they are in close contact with employers. The government should hold them responsible for the safety of those they send abroad, he said.