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10 Jan 2020

Nepal: Supreme Court orders action on unexplained, high numbers of migrant worker deaths

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Thousands of workers leave Nepal every year to work overseas, many of them to the Gulf countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE - to work in manual labour jobs, particularly in construction. Working conditions have been criticised for being harsh and even dangerous, as workers are outside for prolonged periods of time, often in extremely high temperatures.

Around 1,000 Nepalese die in labour destination countries each year, despite being declared fit and healthy for work prior to departure. 97% of these deaths occur in Gulf countries, where post-mortems are not carried out and instead the deaths are attributed to 'natural causes'. Bereaved families dependent on remittances are consequently unable to claim compensation. Investigative journalism and activists have questioned the accuracy of such categorisation, calling for further investigation into these deaths.

In Nepal, sustained pressure has led to the Supreme Court to order mandatory post-mortems on Nepalese citizens dying abroad. 

A petition filed by a group of advocates representing the Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice and Paurakhi Nepal, had raised the issue of the alarming rates of migrant worker deaths in Gulf countries. In response the ruling has ordered the government to take steps to:

  • make post-mortems on Nepalese citizens dying abroad mandatory;
  • mitigate the risk of migrant worker deaths;
  • inform the family about the cause of death and repatriate the body; and
  • include provisions regarding insurance and compensation to bereaved families in labour agreements with destination countries.

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