Kathmandu (AsiaNews /
Agencies) - In 12 years over 3 thousand Nepalese migrant workers in Saudi
Arabia have died because of their poor working conditions and exploitation. Of
a total of 484,701 migrants in the Arab country, the average is 1 in every 162. The shocking
findings were revealed in a report by the Nepalese Embassy in Riyadh, which identifies the abuse of black
market alcohol a major cause of deaths. Udaya Raj Pandev, Nepal's ambassador to Saudi Arabia and promoter of the
study, explains that to withstand the grueling and demeaning working
conditions, thousands of workers give in to the vice of alcohol circumventing
bans in force in the Muslim country. According to the diplomat, over 30 people
die each month due to alcoholism. Many of them come home exhausted, drink and
die in their sleep. Another factor is accidents in the workplace.
Due to the severe economic crisis, every year thousands of people leave the country in search of a job. Unlike the Philippines, which has a proliferation of agencies in foreign countries, in Nepal people prefer to start with a tourist visa and find work on site with family and friends. This, however, prevents the state from protecting its citizens in case of accidents in a foreign country, increasing the percentage of illegal immigrants and the criminal business of human trafficking. The are over 50 destinations for Nepalese migrants. Topping the list, Qatar (68.844), Saudi Arabia (44,741) and Malaysia (31,157).
Mahdendra Pandev president of Parvasi Nepali Coordination Comitee, for years denouncing the appalling conditions of Nepalese migrants in Islamic countries, states that "workers need training and an orientation period before leaving the country." The activist urges the government to create employment agencies that force Saudi Arabia and other states to respect minimum standards of safety in the workplace, where in many cases it verges on slavery. Exploitation is worsened by the total absence of justice for immigrants charged with crimes. To date, over 200 Nepalese citizens are detained in Saudi custody awaiting trial. Many of them do not even know the reasons for their detention and are not entitled to a lawyer or an interpreter.
In total there are about 7 million migrant workers abroad, especially in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. They are employed in construction and heavy industry, but also as caretakers and domestic workers. Many leave the country to feed their families and foreign workers have become a major resource in the economy of the small Himalayan country. With their remittances migrants account for almost 40% of the state budget.