MoFA officials involved in trafficking: House panel

Migrant workers still paying up to Rs 9 lakh to secure jobs abroad against the govt-set rule

Kathmandu, August 8

The on-site report of the sub-committee under the International Relations and Labour Committee of the Legislature-Parliament has alleged involvement of Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials in promoting illegal migration of Nepalis to Gulf countries.

The House panel stated that even after implementing the Directives for Housemaids, MoFA officials engaged in activities that promoted human trafficking for domestic work to Gulf countries.

Unveiling the incriminating report based on the on-site visit, which was coordinated by lawmaker Prabhu Shah a few months back, the House panel stated that MoFA had been forcing Nepali diplomatic agencies in the Gulf countries to bypass, or even flout, numerous set rules.

The third amendment of the directives in 2016 had introduced a new provision that barred Nepal from sending migrant workers to any country to work as domestic help without signing a Bilateral Labour Agreement with that country.

“Diplomatic agencies have time and again suggested to the MoFA to finalise BLA with Gulf countries before sending Nepali workers to work as domestic help, in accordance with the rule,” said Binod Shrestha, a member of the sub-committee. “However, diplomatic officials reported that MoFA has pressured them to close their eyes to the new provision.”

The report adds that MoFA has been enforcing certain provisions of the housemaids’ directives that were scrapped by subsequent amendments.

Nepal had banned its citizens from working in the domestic help sector in April 2016. However, according to the report, a large number of Nepalis are working as housemaids in the Gulf — although the report states that the actual number cannot be determined.

In another shocking revelation, the study committee also found that around 60 per cent of Nepali workers employed

as housemaids in the Gulf took off from Tribhuvan International Airport on tourist visa. “Staffers working at immigration office of TIA, security personnel, staffers of airlines operators and middlemen collude to facilitate human trafficking through TIA,” states the sub-committee report.

According to the report, 40 per cent of Nepali migrants working as housemaids have been sent to Gulf countries via India or a third country like Sri Lanka, China or even African countries.

“Middlemen from Nepal and Gulf countries and manpower agents are involved in human trafficking through informal channels,” adds the report.

The sub-committee added that many migrant workers were still paying fees ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 900,000 to secure jobs abroad against the government-set rule of ‘free visa, free ticket’ for Nepali migrants seeking employment in six Gulf countries and Malaysia.

“Local manpower companies, rather than directly contacting employers in destination countries, contact Indian and Pakistani brokers for job placements, which inflates the cost for Nepali job-seekers,” said Shrestha.

The field report submitted to the IRLC today is based on the on-site visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates between March 16 and 26. According to Shrestha, besides visiting their work stations, the eight-member sub-committee interacted with Nepali migrant workers and diplomats in the said countries.