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Many Nepali migrants imprisoned in Malaysia due to lack of valid document, study reveals



Kathmandu, June 30: A significant number of Nepali migrant workers have been imprisoned in Malaysia for lack of valid documents, according to a study carried out by two civil society organizations.

In a study on Deception, Arrest and Detention of Nepali Migrant Workers in Malaysia carried out by Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee (PNCC) and Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM), 61 per cent of the total jailed migrants reached there due to issues related to documentation followed by fights with colleagues or employers (8 per cent).

Likewise, three percent of them languished in jail due to criminal activities such as murder, theft, illegal drug trafficking, gambling, the sale of counterfeit alcohol and kidnapping.

The report was shared and discussed at a programme in Kathmandu on Sunday.

The study was conducted using a mixed method consisting of a review of existing policies, data and publications, an analysis of 758 individual cases of imprisonment in Malaysia registered between 2020 and 2023 recorded at the Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee.

It was shared that around 84 per cent of migrant workers used private recruitment agencies for their migration to Malaysia, while 15 per cent migrated independently, which is they migrated with the help of their relatives and or agents.

Despite the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Nepal government and the Malaysian government in 2018 on the recruitment, employment and repatriation of the workers obliging the employer to pay the recruitment fees and related costs for migrant workers, it was found that the migrants paid hefty amount in recruitment fees. “More than 50 per cent paid between Rs 100,000 and Rs 200,000 in recruitment fees,” the report stated.

In its findings, the report stated that one of the major barriers preventing Nepali migrant workers from accessing justice is their lack of awareness regarding their rights, the legal processes and the available avenues for seeking support. “Language barrier also hinders access to justice of imprisoned Nepali migrant workers,” it said.

The study report has recommended to implement the ‘free-visa, free-ticket’ policy and the ‘employer pays’ principle with robust monitoring. “The Nepali government should collaborate with Malaysia to ensure proper implementation of the ‘employer pays’ principle as stipulated in the MoU between the two countries,” it recommended.

Furthermore, the report has suggested that the pre-departure orientation training for Nepali migrant workers should include comprehensive counselling on the rules and regulations of the destination country.

The report mentioned that skill training on soft skills such as communication, destination countries’ language, teamwork, adaptability, patience, negotiation and cultural awareness should be provided to migrant workers before migration to their destination countries.

The other recommendations include providing psychosocial support to returnee migrant workers by addressing their psychosocial counselling needs who were imprisoned and establishing a comprehensive system for recording data on imprisoned Nepali migrant workers. “It is crucial to establish a comprehensive system for monitoring and recording data on imprisoned migrant workers to track the number of workers in jail, those returning and other relevant data to facilitate targeted assistance and policymaking,” according to the study report.


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