By SHAHEEN NAZAR | ARAB NEWS
Published: Jun 17, 2010 00:10 Updated: Jun 17, 2010 00:10
JEDDAH: Reacting to a recent Arab News report and a subsequent statement issued by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the government of Nepal has expressed “concern” over reported incidents of the abuse of Nepalese migrant workers in the Kingdom.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Katmandu has sent a letter to its embassy in Riyadh instructing it to take “necessary measures” to deal with the problem. “We are going to request the Saudi missions in New Delhi and Mumbai, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh, to stop issuing visas to Nepalese women,” said Khadga Prasad Dahal, first secretary at the Nepalese Embassy in Riyadh.
“We are also going to furnish the Saudi government with details of every Nepalese maid brought from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia during the last two to three years on tourist or visit visas and then dumped here,” Dahal said referring to the HRW statement that was published in Nepalese newspapers this week.
The HRW on June 7 called on Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to “jointly investigate the abuse and apparent trafficking of Nepalese domestic workers who agree to work in Kuwait but are instead made to work in Saudi Arabia against their will and abandoned there.”
On May 26, 2010, Arab News published a report, which HRW says was confirmed by a Nepalese diplomat in Riyadh. The report said that on an average two Nepalese housemaids are dumped every day on the gates of the Embassy of Nepal in Riyadh. Among them are the legal residents of Kuwait who are brought to Saudi Arabia on visit visas, made to work with Saudi families for a period of time, then abandoned or brought to the embassy by the “second hand” sponsors with the request to be sent home.
Saudi Arabia passed an anti-trafficking law in July 2009 that calls for stiffer penalties “if the crime was committed across national borders.” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said, “Saudi prosecutors have new legal tools to bring human traffickers to justice and should use them in this case. The reports about abuse and trafficking of these Nepalese workers urgently put Kuwait on notice that it needs to pass its own anti-trafficking law.”
The HRW statement also points to Article 33 of the 2005 Saudi labor law which prohibits employing foreign workers, including domestic workers, who have not entered “the country legitimately.”
The Kuwait-based housemaids are brought to the Kingdom without their consent. Kuwaiti sponsors simply leave them with Saudi families. Once they realize this, they either try to live with the situation or escape.
Dahal said his government considers all Nepalese housemaids in Saudi Arabia, estimated to be around 50,000, illegal as they have come here without their government’s permission. They are often brought here via India where Nepalese citizens can travel without visas.
According to the Katmandu Post, Nepal’s English daily, the Nepali government has asked India to restrict Nepalese migrants from traveling via New Delhi to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. For quite sometime, human traffickers in Katmandu have been using Indian airports to evade checking at the Tribhuvan International Airport, the newspaper reported.
It also quoted the Ministry of External Affairs as saying that the absence of a bilateral labor accord with Saudi Arabia makes it difficult for Nepal to deal with labor issues.
Hamid Ansari, Nepal’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said his embassy was preparing documents on the human rights abuses of Nepalese workers, including maids brought from Kuwait. These documents are to be presented to the Human Rights Commission. “We will only take action after consulting the commission,” he told Arab News.