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The plight of Nepal's migrant workers

The plight of Nepal's migrant workers
From Al Jazeera - February 5, 2018

Perhaps the most popular song in Nepal right now is Suna Saili, in which a young man working in Qatar thinks of his wife back home and tells her to persevere until he comes back.

The song, which has more than 14 million views on YouTube, has hit a chord with ordinary Nepalis.

Every day, about 1,600 Nepali men and women leave the country, mostly for Malaysia and the Gulf countries.

In the past decade, Nepal's Department of Foreign Employment has issued more than 3.5 million labour permits for men and women to go work.

The money they send home has been the backbone of Nepal's economy - 31.3 percent of the GDP is supported by the remittances sent by these foreign workers.

The new wealth is visible across Nepal - small villages have turned into towns and private schools, clinics and shops have mushroomed across the country.

With Nepal's unemployment rate currently hovering at 40 percent, many young men and women say their only option is to find work abroad.

For this, they are willing to pay a high price and many fall through the cracks.

At the Department of Foreign Employment, workers can lodge official complaints against individuals and agencies.

There is always a crowd of people, most angry and upset, hanging around the area.

Suresh Prasad Shah has been coming to the capital Kathmandu for days.

He went to Malaysia four months ago to work in a garment factory and was promised $380 a month for his work. He paid $900 to the recruiting agency in Kathmandu for the job and $200 for medical tests.

When he reached Malaysia, there was no garment factory. He was taken to a store and given a new contract for $250.

The company told him he would get just $100 per month for six months - a deduction of the amount they claimed they spent for visas, tickets and medical tests.

"When I said I wanted to leave, they said I had to pay them $1,500 instead," says Shah.

Last year, workers registered more than 2,000 complaints ranging from fraud, exploitation, and physical and sexual abuse by middle men and foreign employment agents at the Department of Foreign Employment. Some 227 workers stranded across the world appealed to the Nepali government to rescue them.

Who would want to leave home and work so far away, if not for a better life for your wife and children?

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