Govt failed to protect migrant workers’ rights: AI report

Kathmandu, February 22

The Government of Nepal has failed to deliver effective protection for migrant workers and end the culture of impunity for unlawful and criminal recruitment practices, says Amnesty International Report 2017-18.

According to the report punished today, migrant workers were systematically subjected to unlawful and criminal conduct by recruitment businesses and agents. Recruiters routinely charged migrant workers illegal and excessive fees; deceived them about the terms and conditions of their work abroad; and manipulated their consent to overseas work through the accumulation of recruitment debts.

“Some recruiters were directly involved in labour trafficking, which is punishable under Nepal’s Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act. Migrants trapped in forced-labour situations abroad faced extreme difficulty in accessing support from Nepalese embassies to return home. Recruiters rarely provided repatriation assistance to workers when they encountered problems abroad despite their obligations under the Foreign Employment Act,” it warned.

The report said the authorities also failed to investigate – including through autopsies – the high number of migrant worker deaths during foreign employment. No improvements were made in the implementation of the government’s ‘Free visa, free ticket’ policy, which was intended to curtail recruitment charges by agencies.

“Although the government made repeated public commitments to reduce migration costs for workers and to protect them from incurring debt, it increased the burden on migrants by raising pre-departure costs. In July, the Foreign Employment Promotion Board increased the amount migrant workers were required to contribute to the government-administered welfare fund,” it said.

As per the report, fewer than 100 recruitment agencies were fined or referred to the Foreign Employment Tribunal for violations of foreign employment laws, even though more than 8,000 migrant workers filed cases against recruitment agents. The Foreign Employment Act stipulates that victims must file complaints with the Department of Foreign Employment and restricts police from actively investigating recruitment businesses.

“Recruitment businesses continued to use their political influence to prevent investigation, prosecution and redress for their routine exploitation of migrants,” the report said.

‘Excessive force used’

KATHMANDU: The AI report said security forces continued to use unnecessary or excessive force in response to protests in the Tarai, particularly over grievances relating to the constitution.

In March, five protesters were killed and 16 others injured when police used firearms to disperse Madhesi protesters in Saptari district. — HNS