THE SAUDI TRAP
Thousands of ‘illegal’ Nepali migrant workers ‘trapped’ in Saudi
KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL, The
Some 70,000 to 80,000 Nepali migrant workers may be “trapped” in the blistering heats of
According to officials, the Saudi government is refusing to grant them “exit visas” because of their “illegal” status. Officials said though most of them entered the country legally as unskilled labourer, they were automatically rendered illegal when they fled their first employer for various reasons, including exploitation, torture and low-payment.
“We don’t have exact official data, but in our rough estimation, there could be around 70,000 to 80,000 unskilled Nepali migrant workers who have been willing to return home but are unable to do so due to the strict immigration law, which requires employer’s approval for an exit,” Charge d' Affaires of Nepali Embassy in Riyadh Paras Ghimire told the Post over phone. “Our efforts to issue them exit permit has gone in vain.”
The laws, according to HRW, has subjected thousands of migrant workers to employers’ abuses such as nonpayment of wages, forced confinement in the workplace, confiscation of passports, excessive work hours with little rest, physical and sexual abuse, and forced labor including trafficking. HRW and many other organizations’ urge for the Saudi government to scrap the kafala system has been continuously ignored.
In March, the King of Saudi Arabia announced to grant exit permit to all those illegal immigrants who arrived on visit or tourist visas, but this does not apply to the Nepali workers who have arrived here on working visa.
Asked whether the Nepal Embassy could help the trapped workers return home, the embassy officials said they can only issue travel documents to those to come it contact but that is not sufficient to get an exit permit.
The Nepali authorities virtually stand helpless in this case. “I don’t think we could convince the Saudi government singly. It may be possible if a delegation of all the representatives of labour supplying countries here made a joint request,” said Ghimire.
Statistics at the Nepal Embassy at
Human rights defenders say the situation is the result of the government apathy towards migrant rights. OHCHR Nepal Chief Jyoti Sanghera said that it was a matter of concern that
“It is important that a country like
She urged that