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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Nepal immigration officials trafficking women to the Gulf: report

A parliamentary committee tasked with international relations and labour rights said the government had failed to protect Nepalis working overseas and turned a blind eye to allegations of trafficking

Newspaper clippings on foreign employment and the plight of Nepalis working abroad are seen posted on a notice board at the Foreign Employment Promotion Board in Kathmandu on October 1, 2013.
Newspaper clippings on foreign employment and the plight of Nepalis working abroad are seen posted on a notice board at the Foreign Employment Promotion Board in Kathmandu on October 1, 2013.

Immigration officials at Nepal's international airport are colluding with traffickers to illegally send Nepali women to the Arabian Gulf where they are often exploited and abused, said a parliamentary report released on Tuesday.

The parliamentary committee tasked with international relations and labour rights said the government had failed to protect Nepalis working overseas and turned a blind eye to allegations of trafficking.

More than 60 per cent of Nepali domestic workers who end up illegally in the Gulf travelled through the main airport in the capital Kathmandu, the report said.

"[They] travel on tourist visas via Tribhuvan International Airport in direct collusion with immigration officials, airline company staff, security officials and the traffickers."

"The rest travel via different cities in India, Sri Lanka, China and various African countries," the report added.

The women are lured to Gulf countries on promises of well-paid jobs in department stores or hotels. Instead, they are sent to work in private homes where their passports are usually confiscated.

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Rights activists in Nepal have long demanded the government do more to protect the four million Nepalis who work overseas - mostly in the Gulf and Malaysia.

With remittances from migrant workers accounting for nearly a third of Nepal's GDP according to government figures, activists suspect the authorities are reluctant to put pressure on host nations.

"The government has been closing its eyes to the problem of human trafficking," said Mohna Ansari, spokeswoman for the Nepal's Human Rights Commission.

MPs on the parliamentary committee met with women who had escaped from abusive homes in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Many had suffered physical, mental and sexual violence, the report said.

"Some women who have escaped and reached an embassy office have made reports about the human traffickers, but foreign affairs ministry has failed to request the home ministry to take action against the culprits," it added.

The number of migrants leaving Nepal for work has surged in recent years with nearly half a million leaving in 2015, up from 200,000 in 2008, according to the latest available government figures.

The vast majority are men working in construction, but around 20,000 women leave each year.

Nepal has previously attempted to ban women from working as maids in private homes in the Gulf over allegations that they are often overworked for low wages and treated poorly, but enforcement has been patchy.