The government must take legal action against those involved in human trafficking from within and outside the country

Trafficking of women in the Gulf countries is on the rise thanks to the government’s lackadaisical approach to control it. The concerned government employees like the immigration staff and security personnel deployed at the only international airport – Tribhuvan International Airport – seem to have worked hand in glove with unscrupulous manpower agencies who are engaged in human trafficking, according to a recent report prepared by the National Human Right Commission (NHRC). The report has said around 60 per cent Nepali domestic workers reach the Gulf countries via TIA though the government imposed a ban on women from working in the Gulf countries four years ago. The rest reach the Middle Eastern countries using the open border between Nepal and India. The demand of Nepali women for domestic work in Saudi Arabia rose after the African countries stopped supplying its citizens as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. The NHRC report titled “National Report on Trafficking in Person in Nepal” is shocking, as it states Nepali human smugglers have even set up offices for supplying Nepali domestic workers to Ajman of the UAE and Kuwait city.

Such unabated human trafficking is not possible without the involvement of concerned officials who are supposed to control such illegal practice at the exit point. The NHRC report has also stated that government decision to send workers at a minimum cost under free visa, free ticket scheme announced in June 2015 has also failed. This scheme applies to seven countries namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Malaysia. As per the provision, migrant workers have to pay for insurance, medical check-up, pre-departure orientation training, and contribute to the Migrant Welfare Fund, all of which cost them Rs 7,000. The report has, however, found that workers have paid hefty amounts to reach the Gulf countries. Going by the NHRC report, it looks like the government’s scheme of free visa, free ticket to be borne by the employer has not worked at all. The employers have however claimed to have complied with the Nepal government rules. It means that the manpower agencies have been fleecing the migrant workers, 90 per cent of whom are forced to sign two labour agreements: one in Nepal and the other in destination country.

The agreement signed in Nepal has no legal status in the Gulf countries. Salary, nature of work, working hours, leaves and benefits are not in conformity with what they sign in Nepal. The workers are insured for two years but they are forced to work additional one more year without insurance cover. Around 300,000 Nepali workers are working in Saudi Arabia, where the kafala system has put almost all migrant workers in jeopardy. This is a serious issue and to address this, the government needs to use its diplomatic channels. The government must step up efforts to control all forms of human trafficking. The remittance sent by the migrant workers – around Rs 700 billion per year – has helped keep national economy afloat. But the government has done little to address their plight. The government must take stern legal action against those manpower agencies involved in human trafficking from within and outside the country.

Protecting wildlife

The Kanchenjunga Landscape is home to charismatic wildlife species such as the snow leopard, red panda, pangolin, Himalayan black bear, and musk deer. One thing is common among them — all of them are globally threatened. Government representatives, research institutions and civil society members of Bhutan, India and Nepal, which share this landscape, recently met in Siliguri, India to plan a strategic regional roadmap for cooperation in wildlife conservation.

Clashes between people and wild animals  are a major threat to wildlife. With the population growing, chances of escalated clashes between humans and wildlife are higher. Similarly, people’s greed often forces them to kill these animals. Hence, today we are losing wildlife faster than ever before. Human existence is not possible without wildlife and plants. Animals and plant help human existence just by being there, for they provide us with what we call ecosystem services. For humans, there may be political borders, but for wildlife there are none. Hence, the initiative taken by the three countries to come together to find ways to protect the wildlife in the landscape is praiseworthy.