KATHMANDU, July 28: As many as 83 Nepali youths who traveled to Kuwait on November 3, 2022, in search of foreign employment have found themselves in dire straits. Their passports were seized by their employers upon arrival, leaving them trapped and unable to return home or work in the foreign land. Adding to their misery, these workers have not received any salary for the past six months.
The affected youths, recruited by Manpower TGL Nepal Pvt Ltd in Basundhara, Kathmandu, were taken to Lamak Plus General Trading and Construction Company in Kuwait. From the outset, they were denied their rightful wages, leaving them in a vulnerable and exploitative situation. The employer company in Kuwait has reportedly confiscated the passports of 90 percent of the victims, leaving them without any legal documentation to resolve their predicament.
To compound their troubles, the Kuwaiti government has imposed hefty fines of 250 to 300 dinars per day on those lacking valid visas. This has only exacerbated the already challenging circumstances for the stranded Nepali workers. Their plea for assistance has fallen on deaf ears, as their employer has been absconding for the past two weeks, leaving them without any support.
Highlighting the financial burden they had to bear just to reach Kuwait, the victims revealed that they had paid exorbitant sums ranging from Rs 150,000 to Rs 300,000. Their dreams of earning a livelihood abroad have turned into a nightmare, with living conditions that are far from humane. They expressed their desperation, stating they had not been able to afford proper meals, drinking water, or even basic amenities like air conditioning.
One of the victims expressed their predicament, saying, "It has been eight months since I came to Kuwait. We have not received a salary for six months. We have not been able to eat properly. No drinking water. There is no AC. Where should we go? We don't have visas. How can a person without a visa return to Nepal? Our passports are taken by the employer. How can we pay the daily fine when we have not received any salary?"
The distressing plight of 83 Nepali youths stranded in Kuwait has led them to seek help through various social networks. Their primary demands are to receive the salaries owed to them for their work abroad and to be repatriated back to Nepal. However, their situation has been exacerbated as most of them do not even have possession of their passports, which have been confiscated by the Kuwaiti employer company, Lamak Plus. Adding to their hardships, the company has been unresponsive and has withheld salaries for up to six months.
Amrit Rizal, the owner of Basundhara-based TGL Nepal Pvt, revealed that he has been unable to establish contact with the Kuwait-based company. The lack of communication and accountability from the employer has left the stranded youths in a vulnerable and uncertain state.
The victims disclosed that they had not received their salaries since the first month of their employment abroad, but they had initially hoped that the issue would be resolved gradually. Reluctant to make their grievances public in the expectation of eventually receiving their wages, they finally decided to share their ordeal when the situation worsened beyond endurance.
In an attempt to seek resolution, the workers staged a protest against the employer company in Kuwait last month, expressing their grievances regarding the lack of work and non-payment of salaries. However, instead of addressing the issue, the employer chose to dismiss Nissan Bista of Jhapa, stating that he was a leader among the protesting workers, at the request of the Kathmandu-based Manpower Company.
Nisan Bista, a Nepali worker, was terminated from his job by his Kuwaiti employer after he courageously spoke up about the company's failure to pay salaries and provide adequate work conditions. Bista had paid Rs 190,000 to secure employment in Kuwait but found himself expelled from the company for engaging in trade unionism and supporting the rights of fellow victims.
Bista's plight came to the attention of concerned authorities, and with the assistance of agents in Birtamod, he was able to receive some compensation for his ordeal. He shared his experience, stating, "I was fired when I raised my voice against the company's non-payment of wages. The company had promised that I would work for Kuwait IL Company through their supply arrangement. However, upon arrival, I did not receive my salary for the first month, and when we expressed our grievances, the manpower company ignored us. We resorted to social media to highlight our plight, which led to a temporary resolution. But now, the employer company has absconded, leaving us in dire straits once again."
The issue extends beyond Bista's case, with 300 workers from different countries, including 83 Nepalis, stranded due to the company's closure for the past two weeks. The situation has become increasingly dire as the youths are forced to sleep in crowded rooms, and they face fines imposed by the Kuwaiti government should they attempt to return to Nepal without proper documentation.
Despite reporting the matter to the Nepali Embassy, the victims allege a lack of interest and support. The manpower company also displayed indifference to their concerns until media attention forced them to respond. The workers have pleaded for a rescue operation as they struggle to navigate their predicament without passports, requiring them to acquire travel documents to return home.
Additional investigations have revealed that some victims went for foreign employment through the branch office of Raj Overseas in Pokhara, while others used the Manpower branch office in Birtamode and TGL in Bashundhara. The manpower companies have been accused of extorting Rs 150,000 to Rs 250,000 from the victims, further exacerbating their already dire circumstances.
Rijal, the manpower manager of TGL Nepal Pvt Ltd, who has repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that Nepalis who have reached the destination country for employment, have become victims, said that he is trying to bring back the victimized youth. The owner, Rizal, has expressed remorse, acknowledging that the employer company has exploited and cheated these innocent Nepali youths. He described the company as rogue and revealed that all attempts to establish contact with them have proven futile.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Kaviraj Upreti, director of the Foreign Employment Department, has affirmed that the issue of stranded Nepali youths abroad is being taken seriously. The department is actively taking the initiative to find a solution and provide much-needed support to the affected individuals.
Among those currently stranded are Kumar Bikram Thakuri, Bivek Joshi, Bishal Nepali, Dinesh Bhandari, Bishal Kandel, Kumar Nepali, Bishal Gurung, Suraj Chhetri, Sabin Khadka, Saru Chhetri, Nabin Khadka, Prakash Pariyar, Hariprasad Kafle, Santosh Gurung, Sajan Pariyar, Bishal Bishwakarma, Bishal Lamichhane, Sujan Gurung, Chanchal Rai, Ravi BK, Rup Bahadur Nepali, Lal Bahadur Nepali, Om Bahadur Tamang, Suksan Chaudhary, Suresh Bishwakarma, Deepraj Oli, Prem Nepali, Harish Tyagi, Rajat Kumar, Keshar Rai, Kaziman Limbu, Ajus Katuwal, and Bijay Tamang. Additionally, others in a similar predicament include Jeevan Bhandari, Chirankaji Ghising, Tek Bahadur Kunwar, Madan Bhattarai, Dilip Tamang, Chitra Bhattarai, Shivraj Acharya, Meher Singh Magar, Narayan Ghimire, Surya Rajbanshi, Suman Karki, Megh Bahadur Gharti, Ramesh Karki, Badal Nemwang, and Sandesh Bhandari.