Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Message from Nepalese Community Leader Dipendra

As we now know, the Nepalese Government has restricted the travel of all migrant domestic workers to Lebanon in the wake of a large number of deaths that occurred amongst these women over the past several months.

In Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, Fatima Gomar, the editor of, stated that,
“The ban … is a necessary emergency step in the face of an alarming rise in the number of suicides by domestic workers in Lebanon.”

While it is true that suicides and abuses towards Nepalese domestic workers and domestic workers in general have been on the rise lately, I doubt that the ban will halt Nepalese workers from traveling to Lebanon illegally. It is very easy for them to cross the unregulated border into India and then travel to the Middle East. Everyday Nepalese women looking for domestic work come to Lebanon from India. If the Nepalese government is to address the immigration issue of citizens coming to Lebanon, they first need to address the issue of workers traveling to India. This will be the only way the Nepalese government can stop the workers from coming to Lebanon.

The problem of employers abusing migrant domestic workers will always be present in Lebanon, it makes no difference whether Nepal bans its workers from coming, the problem will always be here.

One of the main reasons that the Lebanese recruiting agencies and the Lebanese employers like to hire Nepalese domestic workers is because they know they will be easier to take advantage of. The agencies know that they can take advantage of these workers because their contracts will not be scrutinized or contested by the Embassy or Consulate. They know that they can bring Nepalese women here under false promises and illegal contracts and no one at the Embassy or Consulate will question them. The new Standard Unified Contract was approved by the Lebanese government earlier this year, but still many agencies are using older illegal contracts that don’t list any of the workers approved rights.

One of the reasons for the rise in suicides, I think, is that many of the recruiting agencies give the workers false expectations of what life and work will be like when they get to Lebanon. The agencies promise them much more than they get and when the reality of what life is like here sets in, these women feel lied to and trapped with no way of escape. Some of the most frequent complaints I receive from Nepalese domestic workers here in Lebanon is the non-payment or delayed payment of their wages, the forced confinement to the workplace, having no days off, working outrageously long days, sometimes 17 plus hours a day and verbal and physical abuse. Many of these women even become sexually abused by their employers or their employer’s friends.

From my experience, only about 35% of the Nepalese women working as domestic workers here get treated properly. Many are not treated well at all. In many cases, women have died trying to escape from the abusive conditions of their employer and the police rule it as a suicide. Many try jumping from one high balcony to another balcony and fall. The police investigations are often inadequate, usually taking into consideration only the employer’s side of the story. They often fail to interview any of the neighbors or the worker’s family to see what the real story was. Because the Nepalese domestic workers, and all migrant domestic workers for that matter, are viewed as inferior beings, most people, the police included, don’t really care whether they have a proper investigation or not.

If a migrant domestic working woman is lucky enough to survive a suicide attempt, the police rarely provide her with a translator or ask her why she tried to commit suicide. They never ask her if she was being abused.

Here is a list of the women who have died this year, along with their causes of death:

1-Miss Sita Gurung,33 years, Pokhara -16, Kaskai (dead of Gun shot )

2-Mrs Sunita Bholan ,22 years, Padmpokhari-1, Makawanpur (Suicide by hanging)

3-Mrs Shrejana Gole -27 years, Churiyamari-2,Makawanpur (suicide by hanging)

4-Mrs Bimala Rawat-34 years, Ghorahi-9, Dang (suicide by hanging)

5-Miss Purdiki Sherpa-19 years,Tatopani-4, Sidupalchok (felt down from altitude of 15 meters)

6-Mrs Manmaya Tamang-34 years, Chhauli-3, Chitwan (heart attack)

7-Mrs Mina Rokaya -35 years, Kanchanpur, Tribuwanbasti-1(died in hospital from heart attack)

8-Mrs Radha Godar -31 years, Chakupat, Lalitpur (still under investigation)

It is estimated that there are 17,000 Nepalese people living and working here in Lebanon. 95% of these people are female domestic workers, about 5% are male. Many of the female domestic workers from Nepal are promised a wage of $150 per month but many of them only get paid about $125.

One of the main focuses of the NRNA is assisting and advocating on the behalf of abused migrant domestic workers. We provide assistance to the imprisoned migrant workers ranging from translation for Lebanese officials while the worker is in jail, to providing food, water and medicine for the unfed prisoners in Beirut’s Immigration Jail to arranging for repatriations of the remains back to country of origin of the workers who have either committed suicide due to their abhorrent working conditions or have been murdered by their employers. Often we provide transportation for these workers when they need it.

Caritas, a Roman Catholic organizations here in Beirut is also working to assist and advocate for the workers however, 96% of the Nepalese women who come to Lebanon as workers do not know about them or any of the services they can provide, most importantly a safe house that can keep them from going to jail when they run away from their abusive employers.

As for me, personally, I am a simple migrant worker myself who works as a cook in a hotel in Beirut. I work for the Non-Resident Nepali Association-Lebanon(chief Advisor) and the Honorary Consulate of Nepal in Beirut on an unpaid, volunteer basis. Every day from 9:00am to 2:00pm you will find me down at the Security General(immigration investication deparment) offices and jail advocating for the rights of the workers of Nepal, trying to make their lives better. And then from 3:00pm until Midnight I work in the restaurant, bringing home just enough to pay my rent and buy food for the imprisoned workers with what I have left over. With the help of God, I find the strength to keep fighting for these workers’ human dignity and human rights. And I pray that God will open the door for me and help me to have the opportunity to give my full support and full time to volunteer in helping the people of Nepal here in Lebanon so that one day we can put a stop to the trafficking of human beings.

Best Regards,

Dipendra Uprety

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