| April 21, 2019

Covered in blood

NHRC report on migrants
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday released an alarming report on human trafficking. It was alarming because it highlighted the ingenuity of traffickers who have managed to successfully decisive our law enforcement agencies through their clever ploys. For instance it notes the growing trafficking of young Nepali women to South Korea. Most of these women leave the country legally after getting married to Korean nationals. But the marriages are a sham. This is borne out by NHRC’s finding that of the “at least 1,000 female migrants who went to South Korea through marriage between 2005 and 2013, about 300 are happily married while the others live in slave-like conditions.” There are 83 marriage bureaus in Nepal, according to the rights watchdog. Most of them, willingly or otherwise, are involved in trafficking. In another worrying development, the commission says the “vast majority” of Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Lebanon don’t have any legal cover and hence are routinely exploited. Forced to work in inhumane conditions, many workers die. In the past six years nearly 3,300 Nepali migrant workers have died in different countries.

The bone-chilling report gets progressively harder to read. Next it details the growing trafficking of Nepalis for the purpose of kidney extraction. Eight villages in Kavre district are mainly affected by this form of trafficking, says NHRC. There are many such gristly accounts in the biennial report. But what can the country do to stem the cresting tide of human trafficking from Nepal? The rights body recommends that Nepal immediately ratify the UN Trafficking Protocol (2000) and the UN Convention on Migrant Workers and Their Families (1990). This makes sense. For instance the 2000 protocol offers practical help to states to draft laws and create comprehensive anti-trafficking strategies. According to the protocol, the UN will even avail countries like Nepal the resources it needs to deal with trafficking. Another sensible (and quite feasible) suggestion is that new surveillance centers be set up at even smaller border points. NGOs already run such centers at major border points with India. Inter-country adoption is yet another vehicle for trafficking of Nepali nationals, as per NHRC, and hence it is important that Nepal’s terms and conditions for inter-country adoption are clearly defined. Monitoring child care homes will also be effective, it says.  

It is a shame that so many Nepali citizens are suffering far from their homeland as human traffickers continue to find new ways to smuggle them out. Our state actors on the other hand, as the NHRC report makes clear, are struggling to devise timely interventions. The country has witnessed some level of political instability starting with the 1990 democratic change. This will continue to be the case at least for the next few years of the implementation of the new constitution. But while it may be hard to foresee the future political trajectory of the country, there are very doable steps that can be taken in the here and now to control human trafficking. That even these commonsensical steps have not been considered points to the low priority accorded to human trafficking in Nepal. This neglect has made thousands of Nepalis suffer grievously. This is why the new NHRC report and its recommendations must be taken seriously.

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