Friday, October 1, 2010

South Asian Migrant Workers

I would say I have had the great opportunity to see first hand the amount of migrant workers in Doha and Dubai but I’ve have also been able to see how this phenomenon has ravaged Nepali in terms of demographic changes caused by men leaving to work in the Gulf States. It has also sustained Nepal’s economy through 10 years of civil war. Over the Summer I went trekking in Northwest Nepal and it really opened my eyes to how pervasive this phenomena is. Literally every village that I came across had a large portion of their male youth population working in the Gulf, Korea or Malaysia. I heard numerous stories of abuse and dreadful living conditions.

One of the most disturbing stories I heard was from a man from Kagbeni. He had recently returned from Saudi Arabia six months ago. He told me that he was promised a job in Qatar, but first had to travel to Delhi to get papers. He realized quickly it was all a scam, while in Delhi he was asked for thousands of more rupees to just travel to Qatar. After selling his land in Nepal, he had enough money to travel. He started working at a factory where he stood in front of a furnace all day, poured some chemical substance or something into buckets. He decided to leave the job (I’m not sure how) encouraged by his friends in Saudi Arabia; he found a job at a Sheik’s house. The Sheik would ask him and two other workers to bathe him. He quit the job after 3 days. After he quit the sheik job he started working illegally, therefore the employers had no legal pressure in paying him on time or the promised amount. After a year of working he had decided to send his money back to Nepal, however his employer (I didn’t understand this part of the story too well) set him up and the police arrested him. While being arrested, they also beat him with batons. He had to spend a year in prison where he said he had to fight for food and he clean the clothes of other inmates. He arrived in Kathmandu still wearing his prison clothes, and no money. I have no idea how accurate the story is (assuming somethings might have been exaggerated) however I came across similar stories multiple times, but not to the same extent. I don’t live in Nepal but I’ve heard numerous other stories of terrible working conditions etc. In this case he did work illegal and there was some wrong doing on his part but I don’t think he should have been arrested, beaten, and his money confiscated. I think he should have just been deported.

A Dickson alum recently wrote an article on migrant workers and remittance in Nepal:

I also found an interesting website that lists incidents of migrant worker abuse and news pertaining to the topic:

This is an interesting video where a Saudi representative discusses the topic of sponsorship with a Human Rights Watch representative. Majority of the information we have on abuses comes from Human Rights Watch reports:

1 comment: