KATHMANDU, Feb 5: UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Felipe Gonzalez Morales has made a number of recommendations including strengthening legal and policy framework, ensuring effective regulation, oversight and enforcement of the law and empowering those going abroad for employment through information and support to improve the condition of Nepali migrant workers.
Organizing a press conference before wrapping up his eight-day Nepal visit on Monday, González Morales recognized an increased awareness on the part of the state on the need to address the issues concerning migrant workers in a comprehensive manner, including through coordination among different ministries and government agencies. “I recognize that Nepal has made progress in ensuring protection of the rights of its citizens migrating to work abroad by introducing relevant legislation and policy, but protection gaps continue to exist in the legislation, and challenges in enforcement, implementation and monitoring remain,” he said.
González Morales held meetings with the representatives of the government, the UN, National Human Rights Commission, diplomatic community, civil society organizations, trade unions, recruitment agencies, and families of migrants and migrants themselves in Kathmandu, Kailali and Morang districts during his stay in Nepal. He will present a full report to the UN Human Rights Council in June later this year.
In his preliminary recommendation, González Morales urged Nepal to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW), various ILO conventions concerning the rights of migrant workers, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children and implement the 2011 United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by taking concrete steps to implement the United Nations Respect, Protect and Remedy Framework in relation to migrant workers.
The special rapporteur advised the government to embrace migration as a force for development, ensuring that the human rights of migrants are respected, while taking a holistic approach that the perspective of migrant workers, private sector organisations, civil society and international organisations, at national, regional and international level, to ensure the development of a range of legal and policy interventions to improve situation in this regard.
He urged Nepal to take further steps to prevent the abuse that Nepali migrants suffer during recruitment, while working abroad and upon returning to Nepal. Some estimates suggest that more than 1,500 Nepali workers leave the country every day. Many are seeking to escape poverty and discrimination, especially women, members of minority groups, and people with no land or few job prospects.
“Malpractice by private recruitment agencies, non-regulated sub-agents, as well as the lack of enforcement and monitoring of national legislation and policy, lead to exploitative and abusive situations for Nepali migrant workers, including situations of forced labour, debt bondage and labour trafficking,” the Special Rapporteur said in a statement.
With insufficient enforcement of policies to cut recruitment fees, many workers take loans - often at excessive interest rates - to pay the fees, leaving them more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and seriously decreasing the benefits of migration. "I encourage Nepal to ensure that complaints of abuse of migrants are taken seriously and handled effectively through the judicial system, including at the local level. The prospects of a decentralisation process should be a catalyst for improvement in this regard,” he said.
The Special Rapporteur also urged improvements in training for workers before they leave, stating that “information on their rights and how to seek redress is of utmost importance to facilitate access to justice for migrants.”
“Consular assistance in destination countries is often insufficient to provide information and facilitate legal support to Nepali nationals in destination countries,” González Morales noted, calling for further deployment of labour attachés, including women.
“Nepal needs to increase its engagement with destination countries to ensure its nationals do not suffer abuse and exploitation,” he said, proposing negotiations across the region to enable a shift to ethical recruitment.
Women - most of whom are domestic workers - are more exposed to abuse and exploitation, he said, but this does not justify discriminatory rules - allegedly established to protect them - which prevent some women, such as those with young children, from working abroad.
“Other avenues on how to better protect domestic workers need to be explored. Prohibition drives migration further underground and many Nepalese women use irregular channels to migrate, which renders them even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” the Special Rapporteur said.