Over the years, migration for foreign employment has become an essential source of income for many Nepalese households. It is estimated that some 1,500-2,000 Nepalese, the majority of them young men, leave the country daily – mainly to Malaysia and countries in the Gulf region. But there are risks: the potential for exploitation during recruitment and employment is high, and there is often little guarantee of on-the-job safety, or respect for the rights of the migrant workers.
The Safer Migration Project (SaMi) is a bilateral initiative of the Governments of Nepal (GoN) and Switzerland, with technical assistance from Helvetas. In its current third phase (2018-2022), SaMi is working in 39 districts with high rates of labour migration, including Kathmandu.
The overall goal of the project is that migrants & their families are better protected by concerned Nepali institutions and benefit from decent work conditions abroad.
In this context UN Nepal Gorkha in collaboration with 4 R/Municipalities Namely Gorkha Municipality, Palungtar Municipality, Barpak Sulikot and Shahid Lakhan Rural Municipality is implementation SaMi Project in Gorkha. This project is a bilateral project of Swiss Government and Nepal Government with technical support from Helvetas Nepal Project Office. The project has following working modality and activities in the district.
At the local level, the Migrant Resource centre (MRC) is at the heart of all activities pertaining to SaMi. An MRC is the central point for information and orientation to key services. It acts as a hub for the coordination of all awareness raising activities. Through the MRCs, potential migrant workers are provided orientation on safe migration processes, and are referred to other SaMi partners for accessing (free) skills training, legal aid and associated support, psychosocial counseling and financial literacy classes. Following are the key functions of an MRC:
Outreach and Awareness Raising: A range of information activities listed below are promoted and coordinated by the MRC to raise awareness on safe and orderly labour migration and about the MRC as a place to seek advice and support.
- Mass Awareness Campaigns: Various programmes are supported including talk shows on radio programmes, information videos and short/flash informative announcements. MRCs also organize awareness programmes through mobile information camps and stalls in public events. MRCs disseminate key messages on foreign employment through cultural events and productions such as street theatre and traditional songs.
- Community Outreach through Social Mobilizes: Social mobilisers visit villages for community presentations and discussions on migration. They disseminate messages through sessions organized either with the entire local community or specific groups such as women and youth, without specifically targeting potential migrant candidates at this stage.
- Returnee Volunteers (RVs) for Community Outreach: Returnee residents are the initial source of information for aspirant migrants. The RVs are trained to provide key information on safer migration and carry out door-to-door visits. They furthermore play a critical role in identifying potential migrants and people in need of assistance and referring them to the MRCs for advice or support.
- School Programmes: Schools programmes are used as forums for discussing foreign employment with senior school students (grades 8-10 and occasionally 11) to help distinguish between safe and unsafe processes of migration. These students can also share this learning within their household or with relatives already in migration.
- Sensitizing Local Leaders and Concerned Stakeholders: Local representatives, journalists, social study teachers and social mobilisers are sensitized through interaction and advocacy programs.
Information and Counseling at the MRCs: The role of MRCs is neither to promote migration nor to discourage people from foreign employment. Instead the MRCs provide accurate information and counseling to potential migrants, returnees and their families so that they can make informed decisions.
The initial briefing of visitors with MRC counselors lasts around 10-15 minutes and focuses on a set of
- Proper process of labour migration: It is important to follow all required administrative steps to ensure protection of migrants. To get a labour permit following documents are required: medical certificate, proof of insurance, contract, visa, passport copy, certificate of orientation on foreign employment and a receipt of the contribution to the migrant welfare fund. It is crucial to go through government accredited institutions.
- Importance of skills training: Pre-departure skills trainings contribute to safety and higher salaries. The MRCs refer applicants to skills training institutes and in the case of the SaMi Project, training is provided free of charge.
- Recruitment costs: Counselors provide information to migrants about the charges/fees applicable for various destination countries as regulated by the Government of Nepal.
- Document all transactions: Obtaining receipts for all payments is necessary as proofs if required.
- Copies of documents: It is crucial to leave copies of all important documents (passport, visa, insurance paper, labour approval, medical certificate, receipts of payment and contract) at home with family members or a reliable person. In addition, visitors are also made aware of the importance of taking photos of these documents and send them to the families as these documents are often given at the last moment.
- Emergency numbers: Migrants and family members must have contact numbers of government and nongovernmental institutions that can be contacted for support in Nepal or in the country of destination (e.g. Nepalese diplomatic missions.)
- Risks and Frauds: Counselors inform visitors on the various risks of fraud and ways to reduce the chances of being cheated.
Support Services from MRCs : MRCs also play a central role in referring migrants, returnees and their families to pre-departure and/or support services.
- Pre-departure skills trainings: MRCs are responsible for referring qualified aspirant migrants for short term practical skills trainings conducted free of cost.
- Legal aid and associated support and linkages: MRCs refer migrants in difficulties in destination countries to partners for assistance and repatriation if necessary in close coordination with the Nepalese diplomatic mission in the destination country, the Foreign Employment Promotion Board and insurance companies. A variety of cases are reported to MRCs including cases of missing migrants, deaths and issues of body repatriation, medical emergencies of in-service migrants, non-application of contract provision, passport, confiscation, imprisonment and deportation. Migrants that are victims of fraud can further be supported in filing claims at the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE).
- Financial literacy: A complete training curriculum is made available to remittance receiving families. The objective of this service is to support migrants’ families to become more effective in the management of the remittances. These trainings help families plan their income, expenditures and the savings which they have already received or anticipate. The documentation of the households’ incomes and expenditures have contributed to reduce conflicts within families and increase the level of trust.
- Psycho-social counseling: The potential challenges posed by foreign employment (including contract defraud, injury or death of the migrant worker, debts and family break-up) to migrants and their families throughout the migration process may have severe consequences on the psychosocial health of migrants’ families and/or returnees. The programme offers individual and group psychosocial counseling to help deal with the stress or trauma linked with migration.