Nepali workers falling prey to deceptive recruitment agents, shows AI report

The main form of deception workers reported was related to salaries

Kathmandu, June 24

In addition to extracting high recruitment fees from migrant workers, recruitment agents and agencies use other deceptive and coercive practices that compel migrants to work in situations that abuse their human and labour rights, says Amnesty International.

According to its recent report ‘Turning People into Profits: Abusive Recruitment, trafficking and Forced Labour of Nepali Migrant Workers’, in 90 per cent of the cases documented by AI, migrant workers had been subject to some form of deception about the terms and conditions of their foreign employment.

False promises about salaries and working conditions were usually coupled with other mechanisms of coercion applied by recruitment agencies that restricted migrant workers’ freedom of movement and compelled them to perform labour that they did not originally consent to.

“The principle mechanisms of coercion applied by recruitment agents and agencies were among the activities, including confiscating migrant workers’ passports during recruitment processes, refusing to provide migrant workers contracts, or providing these contracts only at the very point of departure, and reporting migrant workers’ calls for help to the foreign employers accused of abusing and exploiting them,” read the report.

In some cases, migrants subjected to forced labour became trapped in vicious cycles of debt bondage and labour exploitation, meaning that they repeatedly migrated under coerced circumstances in order to pay off debts from the previous migration.

“Furthermore, 20 per cent of returned migrant workers interviewed by AI had left their employers and as a result lost their legal right to remain in the country, thus becoming undocumented whilst attempting to escape forced labour conditions. As a result, these workers also were at risk of immigration detention and subject to exploitation by a marketplace of agents offering safe return home,” it said.

The main form of deception workers reported to AI were related to salaries. Of the returned migrants interviewed, 100 of 110 said that the payment they received in the destination country was a lower salary than what had been promised either by verbal or written agreement. This report is based on five research trips undertaken over a 14-month period in Nepal and Malaysia.