Thursday, November 29, 2012

Recruitment agencies must prioritise protection of migrant workers

At a time when Nepal's development partners like World Bank and UN are suggesting the government for a strong migration and remittance policy to take benefit from increasing migration, Amnesty International has shown concern over Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA)'s activities.
"Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies is against the implementation of the existing rules related to labour migration set by the Department of Foreign Employment, which is a serious issue," said Amnesty International.
NAFEA officials have been saying that 'stricter rules' in securing job permits from the department had discouraged recruitment agencies from sending workers abroad. They claim that the drop in migration figures reveals that many are now going abroad through informal channels via India, contravening the law of the land.
"NAFEA’s remarks are not helpful to the ongoing efforts by civil society, and governmental and inter-governmental agencies to promote safe migration," said director of Amnesty International Nepal Rameshwar Nepal, adding that the government's priority should be to protect migrant workers, not ensure high profits for recruitment agencies by processing migration applications as quick as possible.
"Procedures put in place by the government aimed at reducing contractual deception, including translation of contracts into Nepali, should, if implemented properly, contribute towards reducing the widespread practice of recruiters trafficking migrants for forced labour," he added.
Amnesty International’s research clearly revealed that using informal migration routes puts migrant workers at greater risk of exploitation. "If the drop in migration correlates with an increase in migrants travelling via India to circumvent the formal system, then this is indeed cause for concern," said Nepal, urging better cooperation between agencies and the governments of both Nepal and India to protect migrant workers, including penalties for rogue recruiters who violate the law.
Amnesty International has also called on all political parties to sign up to key safe migration policies that will help protect millions of Nepalis, who go abroad for work.
This is an issue that impacts the whole nation and needs a response that crosses party political lines, according to Amnesty that said that it is no longer acceptable for politicians to ignore the issue or for recruitment agencies to circumvent or flout existing laws.
Amnesty International has prescribed to ensure that laws banning excessive interest rates are enforced, apart from ensuring the effectiveness of the Foreign Employment Act as a tool against trafficking for exploitation and forced labour by punishing recruitment agents violating the Act.
Similarly, it has also asked to ensure that the complaint and compensation mechanisms are accessible to migrants and their families and ensure women, who wish to migrate, do not face discriminatory restrictions in the migration process, to release reserves in the Welfare Fund to finance low interest loans for migrants and enterprise assistance for returnees, and to ratify the UN Trafficking Protocol and ensure Nepal’s domestic law on trafficking covers labour exploitation.

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