THE SAUDI DEATH TRAP: Dozens of Nepalis' bodies rot in Saudi Arabia


=> Bringing bodies back tough as most workers are ‘illegal’

=> Neither Nepal nor Saudi Arabia has proper legislation to protect workers’ rights

=> Families back home having tough time receiving compensation Death rate in the Gulf country is ‘alarming’

=> Around 200 Nepali migrant workers ‘die every month’

=> Around 70,000 Nepali migrant workers may be ‘trapped’ due to compulsory ‘exit visa’ policy


KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL & ANIL GIRI, The Kathmandu Post, MAR 09, 2011


Over 50 dead bodies of Nepali migrant workers are waiting in Riyadh to be ferried to Nepal. The workers had died of various reasons in the past one year and more.

Officials said the situation is precarious as neither the Nepal government, which supplies a large number of unskilled labourers, nor the Saudi government, which receives them, has proper legislation in place to protect the rights of the migrant workers. Moreover, the victims’ families in Nepal are having a tough time receiving compensation for the deaths as many of them were illegally trafficked to the Gulf country.

Officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoFA) and the Nepali Embassy in Riyadh said it may take more than eight months before the bodies could be ferried to Nepal, as “many of the corpses reveal illegal residency status.”

“It is a very complicated job. We don’t have the exact data, but our rough estimate is that there could be around 50 bodies waiting to be given to their families in Nepal for the past one, and in some cases, more than two years,” an official at the Nepali Embassy in Riyadh said. “The death rate is alarming. It is estimated that around 200 Nepali migrant workers die every month.” Statistics with the embassy in Riyadh show the office issued “No Objection Letters” to 12 dead bodies in just seven days in January. “Workers’ legality is always at stake. Once you change your first employer without permission, you are rendered illegal,” the official said.

Major causes of death

Traffic accidents

Natural (heat/disease)

Workplace accidents



Alcohol poisoning


Under the Saudi kafala law, it requires 13 different documents in Urdu and English, including police and postmortem reports, for a dead body to be given an “exit visa.”

“This is probably the only country which requires exit visa for even the dead bodies,” Charge d’ Affaires of the Nepali Embassy in Riyadh Paras Ghimire told the Post.

The same legal system is said to have been trapping most of the 90,000 Nepali workers, who want to return home, but are denied “exit visa” (see Page 1 Post story of Tuesday).

Manpower crunch at the Nepali embassy is said to be adding to the woes when it comes to transporting the dead bodies. “Our mission in Riyadh is facing severe crunch of manpower and resources. As such, we are unable to respond immediately,” a MoFA official here said. The embassy is operating with just five staff under Ghimire after former Ambassador Hamid Ansari was sacked in February over allegations of misuse of compensation money meant for families of migrant workers.

Logistics is another problem. “Saudi Arabia is a big country. Some die 3,000 km away from Riyadh and locating the place and getting the dead person’s details is a difficult task for our officials,” said a foreign ministry official.

“In most cases, we also have pressure from the family back in Nepal to secure the compensation money. As such, it takes months to settle such issues.”

 In a bid to facilitate the process, the government has set up a cell at MoFA that exclusively deals with complaints of the victims’ families. It receives at least one complaint every day.

Statistics at the embassy in Riyadh show that only few of the deaths have been compensated and depending on the kind of insurance, the amount disbursed to the victims’ families range from 600 to 25,000 Saudi Riyals. “We can do little unless the Saudi government relaxes its strict laws,” Ghimire said.

[Originally published at:]


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