KATHMANDU, Dec 2: The government is set to provide up to Rs 1.5 million in legal aid to those Nepali migrant workers who have legal issues in their host countries.
According to Rajan Prasad Shrestha, executive director of the Foreign Employment Board, the government has been trying to provide legal aid to those who are in trouble during foreign employment.
“As many Nepali people have to spend their time in prison despite not being involved in any criminal activities, there was a need to bring the provision of legal aid for such people,” Shrestha said. “Therefore, Nepali workers imprisoned on criminal charges will be provided up to Rs 1.5 million if the board decides to provide legal immunity to them.”
The board charges Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,500 to people going for foreign employment, according to the period of labor sanction. From the same amount deposited by the people, the board provides financial assistance to the families of those who die in the course of employment as well as medical expenses to the sick and disabled. Similarly, the board has decided to provide money for legal aid from the same fund collected from the workers. The amount collected from the people going for foreign employment has now reached around Rs 6 billion in the welfare fund of the board.
"Many Nepalis have to bear punishment while working abroad due to language barrier and lack of other knowledge. Therefore, the board has decided to provide up to Rs 1.5 million for the assistance of such innocent people,” Shrestha said. However, the victims have to bear the expenses by themselves if the legal process requires more than Rs 1.5 million.
Likewise, Som Luitel, a human rights adviser and human rights advocate who has been providing free legal aid to those in need, said that Rs 1.5 million promised for legal aid to the workers is not enough. “Everyone in need of legal aid should be given at least Rs 1.5 million and while those with different issues and financial status should be given more than Rs 1.5 million,” he said. “Similarly, there should be a difference between assisting people who are innocent and those who are engaged in crime knowingly.”
Luitel complained that even though a large amount of money has been deposited in the fund for the benefit of the workers, it has not reached the workers yet. According to Shrestha, executive director of the board, there are 346 Nepalis in jails of different destination countries at the moment.
According to Shrestha, Nepali people who go abroad for foreign employment are sent to jail for various issues due to which the total number of such people keeps fluctuating. The board had provided financial assistance of Rs. 737.18 million to the relatives of 1,243 people including 29 women who died in the course of foreign employment in fiscal year 2020/2021.
Similarly, Rs. 26.67 million has been provided to 143 workers who became disabled or seriously ill while working abroad. According to the board, the number of Nepali workers who die abroad during foreign employment is increasing with the increase in the number of people going for foreign employment in recent times.