Friday, October 9, 2020

Diaspora scholars Insisted Nepal to ensure safe, orderly, and regular labour migration

 Nepali Diaspora researchers, academics and practitioners highlighted that Nepal has to utilise the Covid-19 Pandemic as an opportunity to review its existing migration policies, implementation and prepare a new roadmap for future migration speaking in a virtual dialogue today. 

The virtual policy dialogue – organised by Center for Diplomacy and Development (CDD), Nepal Institute of International Cooperation and Engagement (NIICE), Nepal Policy Institute (NPI) and Nepalese Migrants Unity Network (NeMUN) on ‘Rethinking Migration: Need of the hour’ – concluded that Nepal’s should take stern action to ensure the outmigration is safe, orderly and regular, which is the main essence of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). GCM is the first-ever UN global agreement on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions, which Nepal has also signed in 2019 along with other 164 countries.

Giving the welcoming remark at the virtual event, CDD founder president and former ambassador to France Mohan Krishna Shrestha emphasised that protection of migrant workers’ rights can be ensured only when the government rules and regulation are strongly implemented by the recruitment agencies in Nepal and the state makes the foreign employers accountable to protect the rights of the migrant workers.

Addressing the webinar, Foreign Employment Board (FEB) executive director Rajan Prasad Shrestha opined that to protect the Nepali workers national and international efforts should be made. He underscored the role of diaspora organisations such as NPI to advice the migration stakeholders of Nepal on future planning and policies. Shrestha also informed that the government has the policy to attract the returnee migrants in the agricultural field and they will be also mobilised in the other development sectors of the country utilising the skill and experiences they have gained abroad.

Presenting at the webinar, the chairperson of NPI Khagendra Dhakal emphasised that Migration should be a choice of Nepalis but not a forced decision for survival. 

NPI – an international think-tank initiated by the Nepali diaspora two years ago and migration has been one of the core areas of its focus – chair Dhakal pointed that all migration stakeholders should take migration as a positive tool of development for the home and host country both but how home countries can be successful in benefiting from the migration depends on the countries’ national strategies. “However, countries like Nepal have failed to link the labour migration to the development to date in most of the cases, which is what should be the future debate,” Dhakal said, adding that Nepali migrant workers have been abused and exploited in each and every stage of the migration cycle from the recruiting to the returning stage and the main cause of such exploitation is due to lack of awareness about foreign employment processes.

Referring to the recent research conducted by NPI, Dhakal said that some 70 per cent of the returnee migrants are completely unaware of what programmes the government has planned for them in their own country. He also questioned how helpless they could be when they are in a foreign land where they can’t even under the local language.

For the future policy and planning, Dhakal, who is also an Adjunct Professor at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thailand, advised that Nepal should adopt the ‘whole of government’ approach to tackle migration for which skilling, reskilling, and upskilling, “These programmes should be conducted in collaboration with employer and host countries governments using effective labour diplomacy,” he said, suggesting the government on prioritising SDG4 and GCM Objectives 18 to ensure the safe migration and decent work for all Nepali labor migrant workers. “While conducting skill development programmes, Nepal needs to conduct market research and create intellectual debates to understand the changing trend of skills demand in the international labour market.”

Seconding Dhakal, another migration expert based in North Africa Meena Poudel said that migration is a natural process, but the exploitations are basically caused by the unethical recruitment process adopted by local recruitment agencies and foreign employer companies. “Cartels of labour migration stakeholders is the major cause for Nepali migrant workers exploitation which government has not been and is not willing to dig in in true sense,” he said, advising the government to consider the migration governance as a priority for the future migration policy planning to ensure labor migration is humane and orderly.

Ramzan Babu Ali Miya from Qatar and Sapana Basyal from Malaysia also shared their experiences of working with migrant labourers in their respective countries for the past several years. They shared the fragile conditions of Nepali migrant workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Both of them are actively engaged with the migrant workers’ rights protection for many years in those countries. They urged the government to protect their nationals’ rights even when they are abroad to run their family’s daily lives back home in Nepal. The migrant workers are contributors to Nepal’s economy and the government should put them in the social protection framework even they are undocumented, they advised.

Summing up the policy dialogue, Jeevan Sharma associated with the University of Edinburgh, said that migration will go on despite of pandemic and other challenges through the type of jobs and destinations may change. Sharma, a migration researcher currently based in the UK, also pointed out that Nepal has realised migration in terms of financial remittance only, but a country can get much more than that from migrant labourers with effective strategies. He highlighted a consent point of all experts that migrant workers return and go back to their village and do agricultural work is an old assumption. Until and unless the basic needs are supplied in the village and the agricultural system has been transformed with the use of technology, the country may fail to attract returnees to the rural villages for agricultural work.

Sharma expressed his surprise that the government makes promises to create more employment in the country to discourage the labour migration in one hand and it is signing agreements with different countries. “This makes it harder for the public to understand what the government’s direction towards migration is actually,” questioned Sharma.

Participants of the dialogue questioned the government on the indicators of the implementation of the plans and programmes. They echoed that without effective implementation and monitoring mechanism programs on paper cannot result in the desired outcome.

The programme was moderated by the NPI executive board member Sharu Joshi, who is also a migrant expert with her intensive experience with government and UN system for the past decade. “Covid-19 has surfaced the problems of migrant workers that the public also have been realising slowly and the dialogue involving diaspora scholars’ actioners and Nepal based migration expert is just timely to chart out the future policies of migration for Nepal, she said, advising the government to create open debates and utilise diaspora intellectual resources for the informed policies of Nepal including migration. “The synergy between the diaspora scholars and Nepal based scholars could contribute significantly to achieve the national goals.”

The programme was attended by officials from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Nepali Academics from different universities from Nepal, Policy Research Institute, Association of Nepalis in the Americas, government, former ambassadors, migrant organisations representatives, diaspora academics and practitioners from North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia-Pacific Region.

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