Migration in present context has moved to the top of the policy agenda of many countries of origin and destination. The last decade has witnessed an increase in the number of countries experiencing labour migration and growing tendency of many countries to become both countries of origin and destination. A number of factors suggest that labour migration will be an increasingly important aspect of globalization, posing new challenges and opportunities for policy-makers in terms of management of migratory flows.
Labour mobility is a key feature of globalization with a significant impact on the global economy. In 2007, migrant workers from developing countries sent home through formal channels more than US$240 billion, whilst at the same time making significant contributions to the economic growth and prosperity of host countries.
Most of the South Asian countries lack strong immigration/migration policies that could regulate migratory flow for maximizing benefit of migration and reducing risk and vulnerabilities associated with it. Even if few countries in South Asia region have formulated such policies, they are barely implemented in an effective manner. The historic ties between the countries and the nature of the border management, the appraisal of the border management and effective assessment of such policy have become a Herculean task. At the regional level, South Asia lacks regional initiatives in managing migration; it is one of the few major geographic regions that does not have any exclusive regional initiative in place for managing migration in a comprehensive and coordinated fashion.
International migration has been an age-old practice and established phenomenon for Nepal. Over the years, nature, direction, and volume of migration have undergone significant changes. Among the total migrants, it is widely believed that the share of irregular migrant is moderately distant above the ground. The irregular flow largely illegal in nature and has gained momentum both in the face of strict restrictive measures applied by the destination countries and also because of the mushrooming of agencies that facilitate such flows. The declining cost of migration arising out of advanced information and transportation network, increasing population pressure at home, steady decline in the working age population in the developed market economies and unavailability of local workers to undertake certain specific jobs have all acted as catalysts to this migratory episode.
Nepal, at present is the country of both political and economy in transition. As a consequence of the decade-long internal conflict many people have been uprooted from their place of origin. The cost in human life, suffering and destruction in the context of the armed conflict is unspeakable. Employment opportunities inside the country have become generally very limited for these vulnerable population and they are clearly at high risk of being trafficked as they have very limited knowledge of the outside world. Poor skills and tremendous pressure to provide additional income to their families or for their own survival have added further agony to these destitute without destination.
Nepal, one of the least developed land-locked countries, with a population of around 27 million and per capita GDP of under US$1, agriculture is a major source of livelihood. Tourism is also significant as a source of foreign currency income as the country boasts of spectacular mountain sceneries, highland trekking, expedition and mountaineering. Nevertheless, one of Nepal's major exports is labour, and most rural households depend on at least one member's earning from employment away from home and often from abroad. The remittance generated from labour migration had been extremely important, contributing to sustaining the economy of a country affected by internal armed conflict.
In Nepal, internal migration flows are measured to be significantly larger than international migration. The internal migration of people within the country’s border is of four types: rural-to-rural migration; rural-to-urban migration; urban-to-urban migration; and urban-to-rural migration.
According to the 2001 census in Nepal, the total number of internal migrants stood at 2,929,062 constituting 13.2 per cent of the population (KC, 2003). This shows an increase from 9.6 per cent reported in 1991. Out of the total internal migration, 68.2 per cent was rural-to-rural with people moving to agriculture sustainable areas, rural-to-urban migration accounting for 25.5 per cent (KC, 2003). Internal migration in Nepal has been compounded by the nature of internal armed conflict and the existing socio-economic ties between the people leaving in different parts of the country.
According to the 2001 census data, 762,181 emigrants were recorded in Nepal representing 3.4 per cent of the population. Most Nepalese migrate to India as a safer destination on the legal ground of the provisions of the Peace and Friendship Treaty that concluded between India and Nepal in 1950. In the 2001 data, it was noticed that only 68 per cent migrated to India, which is a considerable decrease from 89.2 per cent in 1991 (Government of Nepal, 2003). Nepalese migrants were bound towards new destinations – Saudi Arabia (8.9 per cent); Qatar (3.2 per cent); United Arab Emirates (1.7 per cent); Hong Kong, China (1.6 percent) and North America (1.3 per cent). The data also indicated that 53.2 percent were absent for 1-5 years representing temporary migrant workers and another 15 per cent were absent for 5-10 years – this group can be considered as permanent settlers abroad. Nepal also hosts a large number of immigrants (KC, 2003). In 2001, the immigrant population (in-migration) consisted of 2.7 per cent of the total population (KC, 2003). The Government of Nepal has apprehended the significance of international migration as the supportive tool for economic development and has officially opened 107 countries as labor market destinations..
In close proximity of regular migration, irregular movement of people is also considerable and a grave concern for the countries in South Asia. In the dearth of arrangements for regular temporary migration to address, labour demand-driven seasonal migration from one country to another, particularly to work in the informal sector, has been a long-standing practice. During the past two decades, there has been an alarming growth of irregular migration from Nepal to elsewhere as the result of devastating armed conflict followed by political instability and painful transition.
In Nepal, human trafficking is a major and often under-reported and undocumented hitch. Although it is anticipated that there is substantial trafficking-in persons in the region, exact numbers are difficult to acquire. Nepal has become one of the main countries of origin for trafficked people. Women and children are the hardest-hit since they are often targeted mostly as vulnerable groups and it becomes easier to take advantage of their destitute circumstances. They are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage and bonded/forced labour. Trafficking for the purpose of commercial sex work is a major problem in Nepal. The Maoist spearheaded ‘peoples war’ resorted violence to wrest control of remote areas from the government which resulted in a huge number of people leaving their place of origin and crossing the international border. Evicted due to both from direct and perceived threat and eventually caught in the hand of traffickers for and ended up in dirty, difficult and dangerous work often in exploitative situation.
The occasional restriction on the movement of women for regular migration also creates additional vulnerabilities towards trafficking of women in the country. Most of the women and children are trafficked to India, given the widespread demand for trafficked labour, many are also transited from India to other destinations in the Middle East. The general impoverishment of refugees, internally displaced persons and other communities all over Nepal makes it a major source area for traffickers who tend to fish in the stream of irregular migration. According to the news reported by different sources and the study made on the trafficking in women and children, a huge number of women and children are trafficked though the different border check-points every year, however, in the absence of proper documentation, it is very complicated to acquire the exact number of people trafficked in different countries. To date, no empirical statistics is available in this field.
Commercial sexual exploitation of women and children is a major concern. as the demand market is ever increasing. Young girls are lured by promises of job opportunities with glamorous life or overseas travel to tour glittering cities. Most of the female migrants from Nepal reportedly find themselves in situations of coerced labour. In Nepal, internal trafficking of women and girls from rural areas to cities for purposes of sexual exploitation and labour is also on the rise mainly in the entertainment sector.
The regressive impacts of human trafficking are considerable in the country. There is insufficient or no research undertaken in this area that could broadly take up the issue of Human trafficking not by getting perplexed with the only issue of migration and trafficking which in many instance have been mixed up. Economic losses to communities and governments resulting from trafficking are enormous if considered in terms of lost returns on human or social capital investments. The cost of countering the crime, the loss of potential income of trafficked labour lost in hidden sectors, the loss of income from the trafficked labour diverted out of the formal economy and the cost of social integration of trafficked persons are some of the other areas of adverse impact on the society and economy. There are debatable aspects, nonetheless, to the social aspects of trafficking. By contrast, integration of trafficked survivors can be difficult as traditional communities do not accept women and are stigmatized. It has hindered for their overall well being even after reintegration.
While talking about the impact of migration, another dark side of migration has also been noted that the trafficked survivors often found to obtain experience of physical and psychological health problems – psychological stresses can lead to trauma, depression and in some cases which has also suicide. Many trafficked persons have died in the trafficked situation and have suffered from physical injury. Women and children trafficked in the commercial sex sector also face higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases other diseases.
In general, most of the international migrants from Nepal are semi-skilled and less skilled. Over the years, the number of skilled workers has been decreased than less skilled or unskilled ones. Another feature of the migration processes in the changed political scenario in Nepal is burgeoning expansion of overseas employment agencies having strong but undue political connection which often results in impunity in the event of non-compliance with laws and regulations. The feminization of migration is another major trend of migration in Nepal. Over the last decade, more and more women have been going abroad independently. Majority of them are employed as domestic workers in the Middle East and Europe. A large portion of them are employed in the informal sector, or unorganized sector especially in domestic work in South-East Asia, the Far East and the Middle East. This is incited by the increased demand for domestic help owing to declining and ageing populations, and increased contribution of women in the economy. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Malaysia, Bahrain, Israel, and Oman are the major destinations for such female workers. The number of female domestic workers has increased almost 11 times over 25 years, while it is about six times in the case of male workers over a 20 years period. However, actual figures for female migrants can not be determined as many women have migrated using irregular means due to the overseas migration restrictions imposed on them.. The measures to restrict women’s migration that were put in place were justified on the grounds of protecting the life and dignity of women abroad. However, those policies have not stopped movements but have instead led to many women moving under irregular conditions and thus becoming extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation in the migration process.
Migration of high skilled workers and students in different developed countries is another type of migration that has sharply increased in the recent years along with the trend of studying and working abroad which has been to some extent fueled by the internal armed conflict and unavailability of quality education and desired employment at home country.
Like other Asian countries, the most important economic gain of migration in Nepal is inflow of remittances. Though the figures are hard to determine, remittances from both international and internal migration are significant in the country. The major effect of remittances in the country is the changes in pattern of household expenditure, improved economic condition and investment. Beside the expenditure and investment, there are also well-documented impact of migration on attitudes and awareness as migrants and returned migrants are more reluctant to accept adverse employment condition and low wages. Out- migration as the consequences of debt at home or debt-interlocking involving employers in the destination place or their middlemen is quite common. Such outgoing migration may or may not eliminate the cause of debt.
Migration, due to the effect on gender relations, is impacting the social structure of the society. Altogether, by offering people an option to improve their living conditions, migration has affected fundamentally the social structure of Nepalese societies. In the light of the impact of migration, there is also a debate among the development practitioners as to whether migration reduces the country’s skilled workforce thereby creating a brain-drain and having a negative effect on the development process. By disparity, there are those who believe in brain-gain through brain circulation. The brain-drain situation could not be the same for other developed countries or even neighboring countries, however, it should be the matter of grave concern for Nepal while addressing the migration with development agenda through the lenses of brain-gain by transferring the technologies and skills that migrants have acquired living abroad.
Nepal, like any other country, manages movement of people across its border through the immigration system. Apart from tourists, students, regular travelers, officials, about 174,000 Nepalese leave the country for employment abroad through official channels each year. This figure, (provided by the Department of Labor and Employment Promotion), does not account for the significant number of people who leave or attempt to leave the country in an irregular way or the Nepalese going to India for employment (Nepalese and Indian citizens do not require visas to enter and work in the respective countries, according to the special provision enshrined in the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 between the two countries). On the other hand, Nepalese residing abroad, either temporarily or permanently, visit Nepal on a fairly regular basis. At the same time, as mentioned above, Nepal remains a major country of origin for irregular migrants including trafficked persons and even prone to the crime of human smuggling. These varied kinds of movements in Nepal make management of immigration and emigration a challenging and difficult task.
The Department of Immigration, working under the Ministry of Home Affairs carries out the immigration responsibilities in Nepal. Immigration officials are responsible for verifying genuineness of travel documents (passport, visa, work permit, etc.) of people departing or entering Nepal. They function through the immigration exit/entry posts located at the Airport (Kathmandu) and border check-posts located in seven different district centres of Nepal (Kakarvitta, Birgunj, Kodari, Belahia, Jamunaha, Mohara, Gadda Chauki). Immigration officials are assigned to those posts to verify travel documents. Travel documents such as passports are issued by a separate authority known as District Administration Office in the district headquarters. In addition, the Nepalese embassies abroad issue passport to the Nepali living abroad and issue visa to people intending to enter Nepal. In sum, the challenging task of putting in place an effective border management system is further compounded due to many institutional, technical, administrative and financial difficulties.
It has been reported constantly that migrants have been facing a variety of problems during the migratory process particularly the vulnerable groups such as lower skilled workers and women workers. The migration of high skilled worker is usually considered less problematic because of their relatively advanced knowledge, types of the jobs to be performed and more favourable working conditions of all kinds that helps reduce the chances of exploitation and at the same time increases confidence to exercise their fundamental rights and privileges.
Despite their positive contribution to the economy, migrant workers and temporary contractual labourers continued to face challenges in many parts of the world, including poor working conditions and various forms of abuses and discrimination including torture, imprisonment and capital punishment despite being innocent.. Migrant workers from Nepal have been found behind the bar in the destination countries simply because of their ignorance, linguistic and cultural barriers as well as the absence or inability to hire private lawyers to take up their case in the court.
Nepal is not the signatory to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families nor is it abided by any kind of strict legislation that could protect its citizens abroad beside often decorative presence of embassies in 27 countries.
The significance of migration development nexus was greatly discussed during the High Level Dialogue on Migration held in the UN Headquarters in September 2006 and subsequently during the Global Forum on Migration and Development that was convened in Brussels in July 2007. It was agreed by all the participating countries of both the events that international labour mobility can also play an important role in helping migrants acquire knowledge and skills which can promote development in the home country, provided that the state effectively manages migration as its priority development agenda.
In this context, Nepal, badly torn by decade long internal armed conflict and political instability does not have adequate opportunity where citizens could devote themselves for the cause of national development. Since a huge number of muscle and brainpower is eroding from the country due to the absence of basic employment opportunity and equal distribution of basic service delivery, it is high time to develop effective strategy to manage the return and earning of those migrant workers by interlinking it in the broader national development realm. With a changed political context, the rhetoric of New Nepal can only be materialised by creating a tangible space for economic development with the active and direct participation and investment of its overseas migrant workers and dispora community. Development is possible only through human security and strengthening of democracy and lasting peace is possible only through sustainable development in which the migrants play a pivotal role.
In Nepal, most policies regarding the movement of people are ad-hoc in temperament and related typically to the provisional international labour migration. There is absence of practical comprehensive policy which could manage migration – within the countries and should also have flexibility to regulate migration in the country of destination. The high voltage internal armed conflict has prevented Nepalese from establishing governmental structures, policies and framework for managing migration. With the changing scenario of migrant returning to their homeland and once again facing low opportunities in economic engagement, they are increasingly seeking jobs abroad.
Regional cooperation and collaboration is extremely important in effective migration management. Unlike in other regions, there are no exclusive regional frameworks or initiatives for migration management in the South Asian region. Nevertheless, some progresses have been made to establish a regional initiative in the area of human trafficking. The Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution was adopted by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in January 2002. However, the Convention is yet to come into force since no mechanism for bilateral agreements and regional courts have been in place. The countries in the region are also part of some larger regional consultative processes.
None of the South Asian countries except Sri Lanka is the party to the 1990 Migration Convention Workers. Additionally, none of the seven countries of South Asia have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention. In the area of trafficking and irregular migration, the countries have ratified or acceded to a number of human rights treaties that explicitly or implicitly address trafficking-in persons. There are also some human rights conventions that contain a number of relevant provisions pertaining to counter-trafficking. Those conventions include: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC has recently been supplemented by an Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, to which Nepal is a party. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are some other important Conventions to this effect. The policy and administrative frameworks existing for managing migration in Nepal have its many limitations, particularly as they do not address all forms of population movement in a coordinated and integrated manner.
There also remains a gap in balancing national policy instruments with regional and international instruments. Another important issue to be focused is the lack of proper and effective implementation of the various instruments and their obligations. As in other country in the regions, one of the best ways to manage migration in Nepal is to deal with the issue within a broader migration management framework, bringing in all different types of population movements within the unified jurisdiction. There is also an immense need to manage migration in collaboration with other countries within a regional framework. Measures may be taken to regularize labour migration within and outside the region and reduce the causes of trafficking-in persons or smuggling in migrants. Policies aiming at limiting migration by one country could lead to an increase of irregular migration and trafficking in persons in another. A naturally happening integrated labour market cannot be managed by restrictive migration policy or unrealistically tougher border controls. Thus, it is vital to strive functional inter-state cooperation.
In today’s extremely mobile world, migration has become a progressively more complex area of governance, interlinked with other key policy areas including economic and social development, national security, human rights, public health, regional stability and interstate cooperation. Managing migration either at the national or regional level is a complex and multifaceted speculation. Internal and international migration, as well as regular, irregular and forced migration poses critical management challenges to the South Asian countries. It is increasingly clear that there is a need for collaborative and comprehensive initiatives in managing mobility in the region, if migration is to be beneficial both for migrants and countries. The national level policy may incorporate all types of population movements, regular and irregular in a consistent manner and in synchronization with the development process of the country. The South Asian countries may consider adopting an appropriate, balanced and integrated national migration management policy supported by a conducive and productive regional migration framework.
Successful management of global labour mobility can best be achieved through the implementation of comprehensive and cooperative policies that ensure protection of the rights of migrants and of temporary contractual workers. In this context, Nepal, as a source country for labour migration, can set up minimum standards, which may not be enforceable in the receiving country but which will assist migrants in assessing the terms of their employment. Protective measures must not inadvertently create incentives for irregular migration by being too lengthy, costly and complicated. Global labour mobility delivers its full economic potential for the benefit of all concerned stakeholders, shareholders, and rights holder by protecting the human rights of migrants and of temporary contractual
Nepal has initiated and also is exercising in adopting policies, legislation and structure to promote the foreign employment. To harmonize strong national legal frameworks, inter-state dialogue and cooperation and other important partner such as private sector on labour mobility are crucial for economic, developmental and social progress and are also the best guarantee of respect for the human rights of migrants.
Labour migration is a trans-national process, it can not be dealt in isolation, an inter- state cooperation is essential in managing migratory flow. The success of the migratory experience will depend on the migrant’s capacity to face the challenges of his her new situation, but most of what the labour migrant will be able to achieve will depend on the approaches taken in the management of labour migration by both sending and receiving countries.
Policy intervention in three broad aspect of labour migration need to be considered: migrant recruitment, preparation for deployment overseas, and protection issues of Nepalese citizens who are abroad.
Whilst there is growing recognition that managed labour mobility is indispensable to global growth and development, much more needs to be done to ensure the safe and efficient matching of supply and demand for global labour. Failing to recognize this will result in increased migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons and in more human rights violations. Other key measures to reduce their vulnerability include the provision of technical assistance to help countries identify their human resource needs and skills profiles as well as measures to facilitate the certification of qualifications.
For the government and other actors involved in migration dynamics, preparing migrants and contractual labourers prior to their departure is also a critical step to ensuring they are aware of their rights and obligations. To uphold the rights of migrants it is necessary to encourage apparent recruitment and employment policies
In the present context, Nepal as source country, should elaborate on labour regulations on recruitment for employment abroad and identify restricted recruitment practices. While recruitment occurs either directly or via agencies, it is highly required to monitor and supervise the process by screening, the job offers, regulating mediation by recruiters, setting up minimum standards for employment contracts. Nepal has adopted open market policy, nonetheless there is a clear need for further involvement of state and specialized organization in human resources development planning which is market oriented and actively promotes the labour friendly market. Apparent regulatory framework on emigration should be in place and what should be the role of the state and of the private sector.
The complicated topography and the state priority to restore peace and democracy have seldom encouraged controlling such floating population. As a result, Nepalese citizens have continued to lumber across the region and beyond in search of their better lives. The migratory pattern of south Asia differs from one to another and there is no standardized model that could be referred. Since migrants from both the countries usually reconcile permanently once they are operational in their respective job, the Indo- Nepal migration could be perceived as a unique in nature which can not be discontinued in an abrupt manner.
By the special privileged guaranteed to both the national in the Treaty as mentioned above, they can cross boarder anytime without any specific desired document which has paved the way for free voluntary migration. Nevertheless, open migration, which is voluntary in nature, is not always favorable where there is easy access of misusing the special provision.
Nepal, as passing through the political and economical turbulence, its facing a very serious political, security and humanitarian situation in which amicable measures are urgently required to prevent further deterioration. As centrally located between two giant nations, it needs cooperation on successful migration management and the role of India is vital in every aspect. At the present context and also in the days to come, Nepal deserves effective cooperation from India exclusively because of the kind of historical ties both the countries have maintained and also because of the safe passage for Nepalese citizens that India has opened up for global mobility. Migration dynamics in Nepal seeks multi dimensional approach so it is necessary to adopt the set of measures that are both comprehensive and complementary for the durable solution and migration management.
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