Kathmandu, June 5
Among the many concerns that 25-year-old Sajan Puwar Magar, from Dhankuta, had when he left for Saudi Arabia to work as a labourer back in 2016, not being able to return home after his contract ended was not one of them.
It has been six months since his contract with the Saudi Arabian company expired, basically rendering him an ‘illegal’ immigrant. The company coaxed him to stay back saying they would renew his contract, but have not done so, according to his family members, who are now desperately trying to ‘rescue’ and bring him home.
“While the company only allowed him to work eight hours per day, against over-time for which he would be paid extra earlier, they have stopped providing him other perks,” informed his sister Padam Maya Puwar Magar. “We are all the more concerned because he has been unable to go to work for more than a month due to poor health and his wife also recently underwent an operation as she is a cancer patient.”
Padam Maya has been making the rounds of the manpower agency through which Sajan was recruited — Global Rising Placement — and the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) for the past one-and-a-half months, but to no avail.
Sajan’s case is not an isolated one, as the DoFE records show an average of three to five applications seeking ‘rescue’ of migrant workers currently in Saudi Arabia are filed every day.
“As per Saudi Arabian law, a migrant worker must receive an exit permit from the employer to return home, but most firms tend to persuade Nepali workers into staying back as they would have already acquired the necessary skills,” said Uddhav Prasad Rijal, spokesperson for DoFE.
Padam Maya alleges that her pleas to get her brother rescued have fallen on deaf ears and that both the manpower agency and government officials have largely ignored her requests.
According to Rijal, the official of the concerned manpower agency claims to be out of the valley and they are waiting for his return to hold a tripartite meeting with all concerned. “We will give the manpower company a chance to bring back the worker,
failing which the agency will be penalised and we will bring him back through our own initiative.”
However, Padam Maya is worried about her brother’s failing health. “Since he has been unable to work and is not getting paid right now, his room-mates have also threatened to kick him out of the room that he has been sharing with them.”
While the number of Nepalis seeking job opportunities in Saudi Arabia has dropped steadily since the global oil price plunge, 2,983 Nepalis had chosen the Middle East country as their work destination in the month between mid-March and mid-April — the latest month for which the official data is available.
DoFE officials claim around 2,000 ‘illegal’ Nepali migrants in Saudi Arabia have sought help to return home. “The main problem, as I see it, lies in lack of awareness,” said Rijal, adding that the Nepali embassies in the Middle East have recently appointed a focal person to keep tabs of Nepali migrants in the country and to initiate their rescue whenever necessary.
“The system is in the last stage of implementation and we are hopeful that once implemented, the woes of Nepali migrant workers in foreign destinations will be largely addressed,” he said.
Repeated calls to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Kathmandu went unanswered.
A version of this article appears in print on June 06, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.