Protection gaps exist in legislation: UN special rapporteur

KATHMANDU: Bilateral labour agreement between source country and employer country has been stressed for better protection against abuse and exploitation of Nepali workers that migrate overseas for employment opportunities.

Concluding his eight-day-long visit to Nepal on government invitation, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Felipe González Morales, today, said the labour sending and recipient countries should abide by the basic principles of international convention under which the basic human rights of migrant workers prevail.

“I recognise that Nepal has made progress in ensuring protection of the rights of its citizens migrating to work abroad by introducing relevant legislation and policies, but protection gaps continue to exist in the legislation, and challenges in enforcement, implementation and monitoring remain,” Morales said.

He acknowledged an increased awareness on the part of the state on the need to address these issues in a comprehensive manner, including through coordination between different ministries and governmental agencies. He urged the government to take further steps to prevent the abuse that Nepali migrants suffer during recruitment, while working abroad and upon returning to Nepal.

Some estimates suggest that more than 1,500 Nepali workers leave the country every day. Many are seeking to escape poverty and discrimination, especially women, members of minority groups, and people with no land or few job prospects.

“Malpractice by private recruitment agencies, non-regulated sub-agents, as well as the lack of enforcement and monitoring of national legislation and policies lead to exploitative and abusive situations for Nepali migrant workers, including in situations of forced labour, debt bondage and labour trafficking,” the UN special rapporteur stated. “With insufficient enforcement of policies to cut recruitment fees, many workers take out loans — often with excessive interest rates — to pay the fees, leaving them more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and seriously decreasing the benefits of migration.”

He advised the government to ensure that complaints of abuse of migrants are taken seriously and handled effectively through the judicial system, including at the local level. “The prospects of a decentralisation process should be a catalyst for improvement in this regard,” he said.

The special rapporteur also urged improvements in training programmes for workers before they leave, stating that ‘information on their rights and how to seek redress is of utmost importance to facilitate access to justice for migrants’.

“Consular assistance in destination countries is often insufficient to provide information and facilitate legal support to Nepali nationals in destination countries,” González Morales noted, calling for further deployment of labour attachés, including women.

“Nepal needs to increase its engagement with destination countries to ensure its nationals do not suffer abuse and exploitation,” he said, proposing negotiations across the region to enable a shift to ethical recruitment and advised to conclude the bilateral labour agreements with the major destinations.

Women — most of whom are domestic workers — are more exposed to abuse and exploitation, he said, but this does not justify discriminatory rules — allegedly established to protect them — which prevent some women, such as those with young children, from working abroad.

“Other avenues on how to better protect domestic workers need to be explored. Prohibition drives migration further underground and many Nepali women use irregular channels to migrate, which renders them even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” the special rapporteur said.

He also encouraged Nepal to identify the reasons why people migrate, tackle discrimination, and create more income-generating opportunities, including for returning migrants.


Implement laws for welfare of works, says UN rapporteur

KATHMANDU: United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, has recommended effective implementation of existing laws related to labour for the welfare of the migrant workers.

Organising a press conference in the Capital today, Morales briefed about his experiences regarding Nepal's foreign employment sector during his eight-day Nepal visit. He arrived here on January 29 at an invitation of the Government of Nepal.

On the occasion, the UN Special Rapporteur said that migrant workers and their families should be made known about the provisions of international conference related to human rights protection.

Stating that the monitoring system of foreign employment agencies should be strong, he said that foreign employment agencies should be transparent and responsible to public.

Morlaes said, "Easy access to justice for migrant workers should be ensured and bilateral agreement between foreign employment agencies and destination countries should be reached for fully implementation of human rights and labour rights."

Morales has also suggested the government to strengthen the legal and policy framework and implement them effectively, remove barriers to access to justice and empower migrants through information and support.

This was the first country visit carried out by a UN Special Procedure mandate holder in over nine years.

He commended the Government of Nepal for its willingness to cooperate with Special Procedure mandate holders.

He also urged the Nepali authorities to ensure better protection for its citizens, including by collecting data on the types of violation and abuse incurred at the local level, developing relevant policy and opening consulates or Embassies in those cities of India where a significant number of Nepali migrants resides.

"The government must protect and assist irregular Nepali migrant workers in destination countries and facilitate their return to Nepal, regardless of their migratory status", he said.

Nepal's reliance on remittances for poverty reduction and economic development renders it extremely vulnerable to remittance flows.

Unscrupulous recruiters take significant resources away from migrants, through the charging of recruitment fees and broader economic exploitation, thus effectively disempowering the poorest.

This has also a negative impact on the economy of the country as a whole, reads an end-of-mission statement by the UN Special Rapporteur.