Migration, Refugee and Anti Trafficking
- Human trafficking. UNICEF estimates that some 7000 Nepali women and girls are trafficked every year to India alone. Many of these women are forced into prostitution, while others are made to work long hours in appalling conditions in the textile industry or as domestic servants.
- Unsafe migration. Around 350,000 Nepalis go abroad for work every year, attracted by job opportunities and higher wages. However, many labour migrants don't realise how vulnerable they are to abuse until it's too late. In a survey of Nepali migrant workers, 40% reported that they were made to work excessive hours, and 30% had suffered abuse.
Foreign employers often confiscate migrant workers' passports, so that they are unable to leave the country. Women are particularly at risk, as it's estimated that 95% of female migrants don't have documentation.
- Gender-based violence. Domestic violence is a common evil in Nepali society, which is still heavily patriarchal. A government study found that 48% of women had experienced gender-based violence at some time in their lives, at the hands of their husbands or their husbands' families.
Nepali women are often dependent on their husbands for decision making and women have great respect for their husbands – sometimes, unfortunately, at a cost.
Caritas Nepal is currently working in eleven districts of Nepal: Syangja, Kaski, Parsa, Morang, Jhapa, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Sindhupalchowk, Banke and Sunsary. All of these districts see high rates of emigration and are known to be sources of trafficking in girls and women.
Caritas is working to protect local men, women, youths and children in these districts by:
- Building relationships between Nepali and Indian border officials, to encourage them to cooperate in preventing trafficking.
- Funding "watch-dogs", local people trained to spot suspicious activity at the border and offer support to potential victims.
- Educating government officials, community leaders, cooperative leaders, teachers and other local influencers about risks and responses to trafficking, gender-based violence and unsafe migration, so that they can spread awareness in their communities.
So far, Caritas has involved nearly 4500 local people in training and activities to build their awareness of trafficking, unsafe migration and gender-based violence and how to prevent them.
During the early 1990s, years of rising tensions in Bhutan erupted into violence between the government and "Lhotshampas" (Bhutanese residents of Nepali ethnicity). Fear and persecution caused many Lhotshampas to flee their homes for refugee camps in Nepal. By 1996, some 84,000 refugees were living in limbo across seven camps.
It took until 2007 for an international agreement to be reached on resettling the refugees, and individual families have had to wait many more years for arrangements to be made to resettle them to new homes in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and Europe. In the meantime, a generation of refugee children was growing up in dire need of education.
The Bhutanese Refugee Education Program (BREP) was one of the first projects ever undertaken by Caritas Nepal, in our infancy as an organisation. Caritas has been working with the refugees since 1991 to provide education and support to children in the camps.
Major achievements have included:
- Seting up 42 schools (including 9 main schools) across the seven camps, staffed by almost 1400 volunteer teachers from the refugee community
- Providing primary education and secondary education for children over the course of the programme
- Making provisions for additional support for almost 1000 children with special needs (including children with hearing, speech and visual impairments)
- Making available support such as occupational therapy, palliative care services, sign language training etc to people living with disabilities
- Providing capacity-building and leadership training to young people aged 18-25
- Conducting Spoken English Classes for more than 22,000 adults to help them integrate into their resettlement countries
- Organising vocational training classes for around 10,000 youths from the refugee camps and the local community to enhance their technical skills and capabilities.
The resettlement of the Bhutanese Refugees to third countries commenced in January 2008. Two camps are left: Beldangi in Jhapa District and Sanischare in Morang District, with 2313 remaining students as of March 2017: 1114 boys and 1199 girls, the majority between preschool and Year VIII.
As the resettlement proceeds smoothly and steadily, we face new challenges, notably a lack of skilled and qualified volunteers to serve in the community. Our focus is now on consolidating schools, keeping up high standards of education despite the resettlement of many volunteer teachers, and maintaining the morale of the remaining students in a climate of uncertainty about when and where they'll be resettled.
It's all worthwhile when we hear the success stories of refugee children educated in the camps who've gone on to fulfilling jobs or further education in their new countries.
Following a bitter civil war in Nepal (1996-2006), there's been a decade-long surge in labour migration to other countries. More than half a million Nepalis leave the country every year to find jobs in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Many of these migrants are unskilled, and they are often underprepared and lack the correct documentation and knowledge of safe migration practices.
Young people in particular are easy prey for bogus recruitment agents in Nepal and exploitative employers abroad. The government of Nepal estimates that more than half of Nepali labour migrants end up in "difficult, dirty and dangerous" jobs.
Nepali migrants frequently work very long hours, for low pay in unsafe conditions, and find that the real terms and duties of their jobs are very different from what they were promised in their contracts. Employers often confiscate their passports so that they can't leave the country until the end of their contract – which may be years long.
The Caritas has just started a new project in Lele, Lalitpur District, which has a particularly high rate of emigration (approximately 50% of school leavers in the area seek unskilled work abroad).
Caritas' aim is to make sure that jobseekers in Lele are aware of safe migration practices, develop skills and properly understand their options, at home and abroad, so that if they choose to migrate for work they can do so in a safe and dignified way.
Planned activities include:
- Forming school and youth clubs in Lele to share information on safe migration
- Awareness-raising activities in the community about the risks of migration
- Careers counselling for 150 final-year students
- Skills training for 50 local youths
- A visit to a technical training college for 250 students, to increase their awareness of further education options