Underage workers leaving for jobs abroad

Kathmandu, January 20

Despite stringent laws against underage migrant workers in the country, many brokers and agents enable people under the age of 18 years, most of them female, to migrate to countries such as Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel, and Malaysia for employment.

"The agents present false information on age and education level in the Department of Passport, and many under the age of 18 years are able to procure passports," said Maya KC, information officer at Maiti Nepal.

"The victims are often not aware that they are being trafficked, and their rights are being violated. We have found many underage girls and their agents attempting to trick the passport department," she informed. KC claimed that brokers and agents use the open Nepal-India border points more frequently to circumvent stringent security checks.

Rama Bhattarai, director of the Department of Labour, said many girls, most of them illiterate, were lured with the promise of high-paying jobs to go to countries whose language and culture is completely foreign to them. This increases their vulnerability to exploitation.

Sushil Kumar Lamsal, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Passport Department, informed that once Nepali citizens cross the country's border, they become the responsibility of the foreign ministry. He said the ministry was working hard to solve complicated issues related to Nepali migrant workers.

"Government agencies, NGOs, and INGOs must work in coordination to combat the issue of underage migrant workers, instead of competing with one another, which is sadly the case presently," said Anuradha Koirala, chairperson of Maiti Nepal.