Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – In order to save its citizens from violence and exploitation, the Government of Nepal has launched a program to encourage migrants to choose Christian nations rather than Islamic ones as a place of work. The initiative was announced by the Minister of Labour, Tek Bahadur Gurung. According to the politician, “the Nepalese migrants in the Arab countries are high-risk individuals. We receive news of spiritual and physical abuse directed especially against women. Hence we want to promote Europe and America as better and safer destination”.
At the moment the top five destinations chosen by migrants in Nepal are Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. In total, approximately two million Nepalese are living and working abroad to send salaries home. Most work in construction, the healthcare sector and the domestic service sector. Less than 1% live in Western nations: they are mostly doctors and engineers who have had the opportunity to study abroad.
In Qatar there are about 70 thousand migrants from Nepal (according to the latest data available for 2010). Each year, another 10 thousand choose Doha as their destination, and approximately 200 die in workplace accidents on an annual basis. According to human rights activists, many “disappear into thin air.” In late August 2014, two Nepalese activists investigating the living conditions of their fellow countrymen disappeared after reporting they were being followed by the police. The two sought data on workers engaged in building arenas for the 2022 World Cup.
In the United Arab Emirates the Nepali ex-pat community touches 128 thousand members. Most of them live in Dubai, followed by Abu Dhabi. Half of the group is engaged in the construction industry. In Saudi Arabia there are more than 215 thousand, all subject to the system of kafala: this “tradition” violates the rights of tens of thousands of non-citizens, who undergo abuse, confiscation of passports, punishing work schedules and sexual violence. According to the Kathmandu embassy in Riyadh, about 80 thousand citizens “are trapped in a critical condition.”
Badri Bahadur Karki, spokesperson for the Department of Labor, says the question has profound social and religious implications: “We have cooperated with Christians for centuries, and they have always been very welcoming towards us. Nepalis of all faiths who work in Europe have no problems . Instead, we receive a coffin a day on average from the Islamic nations, fellow citizens who have died as a result of torture or often terrible working conditions. ”