Minister of Foreign Affairs Narayan Khadka has said that the government has been raising the issues of safe migration and protection of the rights and welfare of the Nepali migrant workers with priority at bilateral and multilateral forums.

Addressing 'Kantipur IME Migration and Remit Summit' here today, he said the government has been raising voice for the protection of the rights and interests of Nepalis who have reached 76 countries in the course of overseas employment through the legal channel.

Minister Khadka said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour were working in a coordinated way to address the problems of Nepalis engaged in the international labour market.

Stressing the need of intensive consultations and policy-level collaboration between the two ministries for systematising the 'Free Visa, Free Ticket' facility to Nepali migrant workers, he said the value of remittances could not be overlooked as it was the hard-earned money sent back by Nepali workers from foreign lands.

"The Nepali youths are cheated at each and every step due to the absence of monitoring and evaluation,"

Minister Khadka said this was the bitter truth of the challenges Nepalis faced right from the Tribhuvan International Airport where their onward travel abroad began in course of foreign employment.

Presenting the data that 275 million were out of the country, the foreign minister said various countries had urged the government to supply skilled human resources and also appreciated their honesty and efforts.

"The countries providing employment have liked Nepalis compared to Pakistanis and Bangladeshis," he said, indicating the growing demand for Nepali workers in the international labour market. The minister said that the government expected cooperation from all sectors of society for making foreign employment dignified and systematic by overcoming the various challenges the nation is facing with regard to the foreign employment sector. In this connection, he referred to topics covering all aspects of foreign employment such as the contribution of remittances to the country's GDP, the misuse of remittance in unproductive sector, the problems mostly faced by Nepali workers in the Gulf countries and Malaysia, the injustice of employers not paying remuneration for overtime work, and the problems faced by women workers, among others.

Stating that poverty was gradually reducing in the country as the economy had been rendered mobile by remittance inflow, he said 18 per cent of Nepalis were still under the absolute poverty line. The government has the goal of reducing poverty to a single digit by 2030.

"One person has gone for foreign employment from 76 per cent households of the country. The money remitted home by these workers is being used in unproductive ways such as purchasing television and mobile sets and spending on wedding parties," the foreign minister said indicating how the hard-earned remittance was being used in the unproductive sector.

He also expressed concern that remittance was being used for importing rice worth Rs 44 billion annually.

He said it was not only being used in productive sector but was also supporting the economy hardhit by the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing to education, health and some productive sectors as well.

Minister Khadka said serious attention should be given to managing remittance, which is a key part of the national economy.

The minister pointed out the need for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health and Population to work collaboratively for addressing the complex problems faced by workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Nepali youths are cheated at each and every step due to lack of monitoring and evaluation"

A version of this article appears in the print on December 30, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.