Suicide rate among Nepali workers in Malaysia “high”, Nepal paper reports

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An estimated 600,000 workers from Nepal in Malaysia are exploited and underpaid, according to a Nepali newspaper.

A report in the English daily Republica headlined "Malaysia is worse" and written by Ishwar Rauniyar, a reporter with BBC's weekly debate programme, said 253 Nepali workers died in Malaysia last year, making it one of the "deadliest destinations" for them to come and work.

"They are promised one salary but once they land they are paid far less. The suicide rate among Nepalis in Malaysia is also high. Apparently, at least 40,000 Nepalis working illegally in Malaysia are to be deported soon. The crackdown on Nepali workers has already started," he reported.

His views came on the heels of the case of a 30-year-old Nepali who jumped to his death from the roof of a building in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, last month, reportedly after being laid off.

According to reports, mounting debts and an on-going crackdown by the Malaysian authorities on illegals led the Nepali to end his life.

His death prompted non-governmental organisation Tenaganita, which champions the rights of migrant workers and women, to take the authorities to task over the lack of empathy towards migrant workers as well as lax enforcement against errant recruitment agencies which exploited foreign workers.

In recounting his experiences in Malaysia a few years ago, Ishwar wrote, "I encountered at least 200 Nepali migrant workers waiting to be ‘loaded’ back home by their agents. It seemed someone had unloaded them at the airport and the owner had yet to collect them.

"They were spending days on the floors of the immigration office in Kuala Lumpur. Some had been waiting for up to a month. They were sleeping on the floor without food and water.

"A person who I can never forget had contracted diarrhoea, perhaps because he had no option but to drink from the toilet tap. He was crying and said if he was not rescued within a few days, his family would have to receive his dead body."

Ishwar claimed the Nepal embassy in Malaysia had no knowledge of the stranded workers when he informed the embassy.

"In my two weeks in Malaysia I met several Nepali migrants; some of them waiting to be rescued, others hiding in jungles, still others working in the fields to earn some money so that they could pay back their loans."

He said the situation of Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia and the Gulf countries was "pathetic", with neither the receiving countries nor the sending country properly managing the workers, although both got "huge benefits" from them.

According to him, studies have shown that a migrant worker is cheated an average of 16 times on his journey from his village to the foreign destination of his choice.

It starts with the loan shark in the village, then the manpower company and all the way up to profiteers at the final destination.

He recounted how a colleague's brother was asked to pay 125,000 Nepali Rupees (about RM4,000) to go to Malaysia, although the official rate was only Rs80,000 (RM2,500).

He said his colleague tried contacting Nepal's foreign employment department director-general, the labour ministry's secretary and even the prime minister's office for help, but nothing was done.

"How can common people get justice in this country? Poor migrants become the victims of the government’s apathy. Not only are they overcharged during the application process, they don’t even get the promised jobs and salaries when abroad," he wrote.

Ishwar called on countries which take in foreign workers to ban manpower agencies who exploit them, and urged the authorities to closely monitor the state of migrants, whether they are paid adequately and have decent working conditions.

The Nepal government, meanwhile, has to better regulate labour migration, including reviewing current policies, he suggested.

"It’s not the receiving country that pays the price of the mismanagement, but sending countries like Nepal that pay with the blood of their countrymen," he wrote.

More than 400,000 Nepalis flood the job market every year, with 90% of them finding employment overseas. Some 1,600 Nepalis leave their country daily to work in the Gulf, Malaysia and South Korea.

The money remitted back to Nepal by its more than 2.5 million workers abroad constitutes the largest foreign exchange earner for the country.

Last year, remittances were worth about US$4.5 billion (RM14.3 billion), almost a quarter of Nepal's GDP. – October 6, 2013.

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