A group of Nepali migrant workers stranded in Libya have been repatriated after a 22-month long ordeal involving unpaid wages, cramped and unhygenic living conditions and unscrupulous manpower agents. A total of 108 workers were forced to camp out in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, after their employer went bust. The workers were left with unpaid wages and no means of returning home after their employer and manpower agents failed to take responsibility for securing their return to Nepal. 61 workers were flown back to Kathmandu last week thanks to the joint efforts of the Nepali government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), while the remaining 47 are awaiting assistance in Libya.
Although the workers have been returned home safely, they now face the burden of massive debts incurred in paying manpower agents for their placements.
Bhakta Adhikari, one of the repatriated workers, tells his story to Nepali daily Republica:
After spending more than 22 months in Libya, Bhakta Adhikari of Pokhari VDC-2 in Sindhuli district, returned home empty-handed to face a debt amounting to more than Rs 80,000, in addition to accumulated interest, to a local landlord.
Adhikari had spend more than Rs 250,000 on manpower agencies in hopes of getting a job in Macau, only to land in Libya, where he had to suffer more than four and a half month of an inhumane and tortuous existence.
After frequent disruptions in the operations of his employer company, he was left completely jobless from April when CKG Construction Company was dissolved.
“We would never have landed in Libya had we been informed in advance about the working environment there. We are cheated with false promises by the manpower agencies recruiting us,” said Adhikari.
He had attempted to find a job in Macau through Quality Manpower Agency before being handed over to Dhaulagiri Manpower, which ultimately transported him to Libya. “I was forced to accept a job in Libya, something I was not interested in, as there was no choice left for me,” he said.
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The Nepali government has since imposed a ban on its nationals working in Libya.
According to this story in Republica:
In the last two years since the government formally gave permission for manpower agencies to send workers to Libya, more than 2,500 persons have already reached there through institutional channels, to work mainly in the construction sector.
Responding to a host of complaints about the problems that face Nepali workers in Libya, the government has completely stopped issuing prior and final approval for sending workers to that country.
“We have suspended prior and final permissions for Libya on practical grounds, given the increasing number of reports of suffering by Nepalis there,” said Manohar Khanal, director of the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE).
Following a report about 108 workers encamped in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, following the collapse of their employer company, DoFE had been imposing restrictions on the granting of final and prior approval to manpower agencies for jobs in Libya.
“We had issued prior and final permissions for Libya to manpower agencies that had a good track record and signed agreements with employer companies to send workers there. However, we have suspended such permission for the time being, until we find out the exact reasons behind the suffering of Nepali workers,” said Khanal. From the second week of June, DoFE had been exercising a strict policy over Libyan jobs.
The Nepali Ministry of Labour and Transport
began investigations last September into opening up Libya as a destination for Nepali migrant workers, but by all accounts the experiment has been fraught with problems