Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia bearing brunt of exploitation

Published On: March 20, 2017 05:05 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20: Deepak Adhikari of Mijure VDC-2 in Kaski has been selling sweat in Malaysia. The low pay apart, the living condition for this blue-collar worker is not decent. He feels suffocation in sharing the room with 15 other migrant workers in what he describes no less than an 'open jail'. 

Ashok Kumar of Bhedpu-4 in Kailali is also toiling in foreign shore as a security guard for the last two years. Exacerbated by distance from the loved one and children back home, he is equally frustrated by poorly paid menial job that keeps him on his toe for around 12 hours a day in 33 degree Celsius. 

Similarly, Ram Bahadur Tamang's three year contract is due to expire in few months. Originally from Dharan Sub-Metropolitan City-22 in Sunsari, Tamang's bittersweet time in his menial job and level of discomfort at residence having to share a single room with over two dozen of people sufficiently speaks volume about the Nepali migrant workers' deplorable working and housing condition. 

Tamang drew the attention of his employer towards providing the basics for accommodation as promised during his induction into the job but to no avail. Instead, the employer derogatorily questioned Tamang, "Why do you barbarians need the beddings?" 

The situation of the migrant workers from Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar in Malaysia is more or less the same like the Nepalis, shared migrant worker Adhikari grieving of insecurity from the looters and suffering at the hand of some corrupted Malaysian police. Malaysia is one of the popular labor destinations in Southeast Asia. 

The legal identity card provided by the Malaysian employers is merely a piece of paper for the Malaysian policemen used to fleecing the Nepali migrant workers in their land. If even they display their identity cards, policepersons arrest them for no apparent reasons and set them free if they pay around 50 ringgit (equivalent to Rs 1,200). 

This issue has stemmed out of the practice of the agents making the aspiring Nepalis migrant workers seek greener pastures illegally or if even they go legally, they are made to sign a fake agreement (that unknowingly denies them of their fundamental rights) while the employer companies in Malaysia often make agreement paper to show their government fake details about the facilities to provide to the migrant workers. 

"We don’t have money all the time, nor do the employers give us our passport once we begin to discharge our assigned duties," explains Adhikari with moist eyes. 

This is a communal problem among the 100,000 Nepali migrant workers out of a far large number of 700,000 Nepalis currently working in Malaysia in various capacities. It may be noted that second to India, Nepal receives the highest amount of remittance from Malaysia. 

Of all other labor destinations, Malaysia has been one of the favorite destinations for Nepali migrant workers because of easy access, high demand and favorable weather among other reasons. 

Much to the dismay of the Nepali migrant workers, they are forced to labor more than 8 hours for meager pay against the mandate of the ILO. Add to that, the bearer of the passport could not exercise the right to possess passport as per the International Passport Act-1955. 

International provisions to protect the rights of migrants have been put in place but not exercised in their case. 

Nepali Ambassador to Qatar Niranjanman Singh Basnyat is leaving no stone unturned to protect and promote the rights of the Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia, including pressing for their rights to possess the passport and providing facilities and services as per their contract with their employers. 

Nepali envoy Basnyat's four-year tenure is due in eight months and unfortunately, he could not even manage to enactive economic diplomacy and other dynamics of protocols with Malaysia, let alone exercising them for the best interest of Nepal and Nepalis here. 

The career diplomat revealed that labor diplomacy consumes around 90 per cent of working hours thereby unable to achieve desirable outcomes when it comes to working for the national interest. 

"I grow weary by briefing on the same issue to the high-level delegations, investigation team of the CIAA, parliamentarian delegations and staffers at the National Planning Commission visiting Malaysia time to time." Basnyat said, adding wryly that what consumes most of his remaining 10 per cent of working hours is - taking part in the programs of, by and for the Nepali migrant workers here. 

Confiding about inability to 'avoid' attending such programs where the influential leaders of various political parties back home and former Ministers mark their presence, he said that it falls under his positional responsibility to be present on such occasions. 

Basnyat also ranted about difficulty functioning in the office and addressing the issues of the Nepali workers in lack of adequate human resources and budget for the office. 

According to him, it's very challenging for the Head of the Mission and the officials working under him to render services to more than 300 service-seekers reaching the Nepali embassy in Kuala Lumpur in a day on average. 

It is understood the Nepali embassy in Kuala Lumpur is functioning with 17 staffers against the vacancy of 21 human resources to be working at various capacities. 

He lamented that the embassy has to function with an annual budget of Rs 75 million and it is not adequate and hardly meets the regular expenses. The embassy, according to him, contributed revenue of Rs 670 million and Rs 282 million to the state coffers in 2015 and 2016 respectively. 

When this scribe reached Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jeevan Bahadur Shahi and member of the parliamentary committee on International Labor Relations, Bharat Khadka to appraise of the diplomatic difficulties and other challenges faced by Ambassador Basnyat in giving more time to diplomatic activities on matters enhancing national interests and prestige, both placed at policy making position did not choose to comment on the matter besides diplomatically brushing aside the issue. 

Ambassador Basnyat, in course of diplomatic dealing, held a roundtable discussion with his counterparts from various 16 countries deputed in Malaysia on the issues of the migrant workers and their welfare with a special focus on Nepali migrant workers suffering at the hands of swindler companies and submitted the conclusions to both the government of Malaysia and Nepal but to no avail. 

It may be noted that the remittance by Nepalis working in Malaysia contribute 29.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. 

Basnyat opines that the remittance that contributes to GDP so largely should not be underestimated. He shared although a huge chunk of revenue is collected from the passport fee, travel permit and other services, the delay in the release of the budget for the embassy and lack of budget and human resources have been dampening his spirit to offer efficient services to the service seekers. 

Also, his heart wrenches to see the innocent Nepalis duped at the hands of the swindlers in their own motherland. Basnyat voices concern over no action against such wrongdoers. RSS

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