Nepali women using Indian route to UAE more vulnerable

United Arab Emirates: Sunita (name changed) of Tanahun district arrived in United Arab Emirates some ten months ago via India after a broker promised her of decent job and lucrative payment.

She used the Jamunaha checkpoint of Nepalgunj and reached the Indian capital city of New Delhi and was taken to the UAE after some days' stay in New Delhi. As the broker lured her with the hope of a good job in the UAE, Sunita arrived in the gulf nation after leaving her two-year-old baby daughter back home.

Upon her arrival, Sunita worked as a housemaid in Zumera in Dubai but she was not paid even a single penny though she was promised Rs 25,000 per month.

She was abused when she sought her monthly payment. "You were bought and hence we need not pay you," she quoted the landlord as saying.

Sunita claimed that UAE-based Nepali broker named Alisha Rai sold her out to the landlord to serve as a housemaid. She said, "Alisha sought 13,000 Dirham with the landlord for sending me to his house and I was taken to his house after paying 12,500 Dirham to Rai." 12,500 Dirham is equivalent to Rs 350,000.

However, Sunita fortunately managed to come in contact of the Embassy of Nepal in UAE after working for nine months as a housemaid without receiving her wages. She managed to escape when she was alone in the house. She also shared that Raju Lama of Kavre district prodded her to leave for the UAE. "Prior to this, my sister had worked in Kuwait. She had earned good money. I came here with the same mindset but I suffered badly," Sunita added.

Sunita is just 20. However, she received her citizenship card and passport by lying her age to increase it by two years. Sunita is presently taking refuge at a shelter home of the Embassy and is returning home this week. Officials at the Embassy of Nepal in the UAE said that it took some days to prepare the papers as the landlord sent her passport to the UAE immigration after she ran away from the house.

Rita (name changed) of Solukhumbu has the same story to share. Currently, she too is staying at the shelter home of the Embassy. A broker named Sudip Gurung had lured her with the same hope of good income and better job in the UAE and she left home via India by paying Rs 70,000 to the broker.

She worked as a home-based worker in Sharjah of Dubai but had to bear mental and physical torture after beginning her job in the house. Despite working for 18/20 hours a day, she was deprived of payment while being mentally tortured by the house owner. Rita said that she was physically exploited repeatedly. "The employer used to torture me every day. And I had escaped from the scene."

Rita added that she had arrived in the Embassy of Nepal in the UAE by hiring a taxi last week as the torture in the house was unbearable.

Likewise, Srijana (name changed), another woman in the Embassy's shelter home, said that Alisha Rai was the person to take her to different houses as a housemaid adding that Rai herself used to take the monthly salary after the month was over. Srijana said that Alisha's husband Sujan Bhandari was also involved in such wrongdoings.

Chargé d'affaires at the Embassy of Nepal in Dubai Sagar Prasad Phuyal said that efforts are ongoing to resolve the problems the women are facing once they come in contact with the Embassy.

Labour Attaché of Embassy Motiram Bhusal said that Nepali women have faced economic and physical exploitation as they come via Indian route and on a visit visa. Women workers coming directly from Kathmandu with labour permit are in less risk, he said.

As the government imposed a ban on sending domestic worker, women are using Indian and Sri Lankan routes in the recent days to land in the gulf nations and that is putting them in more vulnerable conditions.

Likewise, the women using Nepal's airport by taking labour visa and visit visa are also forced to work as the housemaids by the brokers.

In the meantime, as Nepal and UAE are preparing for a bilateral labour agreement, many such problems are expected to resolve with the finalisation of the process.