Govt urged to ensure migrant workers safety

KATHMANDU: An Amnesty International (AI) expert has urged the government to take precautions before sending migrant workers to greener pastures so that they don’t end up getting exploited.

Amnesty International’s Asia Campaign Coordinator Robert Godden, presenting a report here today on the situation of migrant workers in Malaysia, recommended the government to consider the safety and protection of Nepali migrant workers seriously.

Nepal — one of the largest remittance receiving economies in the world — receives about $1.6 billion remittance anually. Thus, it is the government’s obligation to protect its migrant workers in foreign countries.

“There has to be proper cooperation between Nepal and

host countries in accordance with a Memorandums of

Understanding (MoUs) that guarantee minimum wage rate, maximum working hours,

safety provisions, insurance and monitoring of recruitment agencies,” Godden said.

According to him, since reports show that most recruiting agencies lure workers with false promises of high salaries, better working hours and finer provisions, the government should ensure that the prospective workers are given the correct information regarding salary, working hours and job responsibility. Thus, the government needs to monitor these recruiting agencies and penalize any agency involved in cheating.

He added, “All migrant workers should be informed about their rights in the destination country before departure. Most importantly, they must be informed about the right to get in touch with the Nepali consulate in the host country if they are abused or mistreated.”

Regarding the responsibilities of the host countries, he said, “Even though the abuse and exploitation are not carried out by governmental agencies, excluding police, it is the destination country’s responsibility to ensure the safety of migrant workers irrespective of their nationality. If it is unable to curb such instances, the government itself is accountable. The host government need to have a regulatory body which can carry out inspection and report any misdoings on the part of the employer. There has to be a helpline that these workers can reach to report abuses and violations.”

The report — ‘Trapped: The Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Malaysia’ — paints a grim picture of the condition of migrants from countries like Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam and so on.

It is a narrative of abuses which documents the plight of the migrant workers. It is full of testimonials of abuses — verbal, physical and sexual that most of the foreign workers have to put up with, unsafe working conditions, extortion and blackmailing by police personnel and RELA (a People’s Volunteer Corps), lack of safety provisions, wage manipulations, forced labour and the Malaysian government’s own shortcomings. Malaysia is attempting to improve the situation of foreign workers who comprise 20 per cent of Malaysia’s total work force, but the process is slow and patchy.

At present, there are around 200,000 documented and another 200,000 undocumented Nepali workers in Malaysia.