KATHMANDU – Human rights group Amnesty International denounced on Monday the Nepali government’s failure to crackdown on recruitment agencies charging illegal fees to emigrating Nepalis, who become trapped in a cycle of debt and exploitation.
To mark International Migrants Day, AI revealed on Monday in a study that 88 percent of the 414 Nepali migrants surveyed in Nepal and Malaysia, paid “excessive, illegal recruitment fees” to these agencies.
In 2015, the Nepalese government implemented the “Free Visa, Free Ticket” policy which capped the maximum amount that could be paid to these agencies at 10,000 rupees (around $96); the average fee is $1,200 in a country where the annual per capita income is just $730.
“The Nepali government’s weak enforcement of the law is playing straight into the hands of extortionists and loan sharks,” Deputy Director of AI’s Global Issues Programme, James Lynch, said in a statement.
Lynch said the migrant workers “end up trapped in the soul-destroying situation of working abroad for years simply to pay off the huge, often illegal fees they were charged to take the job.”
“Tackling this exploitative industry is a matter of urgency,” he added.
Nepal’s Labour and Employment Ministry spokesperson Bhuwan Prasad Acharya in a statement to EFE admitted that despite the government’s best efforts, the initiative against recruitment agencies’ malpractice has not been effective.
“We are putting our all the efforts to control the malpractice in the sector,” said Acharya.
Around 3.8 million Nepalis, out of a total population of 28 million, work abroad.
Foreign remittances account for close to 30 percent of Nepal’s GDP.
The most common destinations for Nepali migrants are India – where they do not need a work permit – the Persian Gulf countries, South Korea and Malaysia.