Ex-envoy urges probe into Nepali deaths in Qatar

Former Nepalese ambassador to Qatar says workers are most exploited in Gulf state; calls for urgent investigation

Doha, Qatar.
Doha, Qatar.

A former Nepalese ambassador to Qatar has said that the country's workers in the Gulf state are exploited the most out of all migrant workers.

Suryanath Mishra, who served as ambassador to Qatar from 2007 to 2012, said the cause of deaths of Nepali workers in the Gulf state "needs to be investigated properly and urgently".

"Nepali migrant workers have the lowest per capita income in Qatar," said Mishra in comments made to CNN. "They get exploited the most out of all the migrant workers."

He cited lack of education and technical skills as the main causes, adding that 55 percent of Nepali migrant workers deaths in Qatar are from "sudden" cardiac arrest while 20% die from work-related accidents and 10 percent commit suicide.

CNN said that Nepali government records showed more than 290 workers have died in the Gulf state in the past 420 days.

"The cause of deaths needs to be investigated properly, and urgently," Mishra says. "In general, it is due to tension led by exploitation, adverse climate, poor working and living conditions and alcoholic intoxication."

According to Bhola Prasad Siwakoti, the secretary of the Nepalese Ministry of Labour and Manpower, almost every day, the remains of three or four workers arrive back in Nepal from the Middle East, CNN reported. Every other day, at least one dead body arrives from Qatar, he was quoted as saying.

Last year Qatar was named among 11 countries to be downgraded to "extreme risk" for working conditions, according to a global index by Maplecroft.

The downgrading of the Gulf state followed numerous reports of hazardous and sometimes fatal conditions experienced by migrant workers on construction sites.

The number of countries rated as "extreme risk" in Maplecroft’s annual Working Conditions Index (WCI), which evaluates 197 countries on their minimum wage levels, working hours, and health and safety in the workplace, rose from 49 to 60 between 2013 and 2014.

More than 350,000 Nepali migrant workers live in Qatar, making it the second-biggest expat community after Indians.

CNN quoted Saad Al-Mraikhi, a spokesman for the Qatar Labour Ministry as saying that all workers deserve to be protected against exploitation.

Al-Mraikhi estimated that some 400 Indian and Nepalese workers die each year in Qatar.

"It is desperately unfortunate that any worker should die overseas, in a foreign land, away from their family. But it would be wrong, we believe, to allow the statistics to be consistently distorted to suggest that all deaths in a population of 1.5 million people are apparently the result of workplace conditions, either directly or indirectly, which is the prevailing and erroneous narrative," he said in a statement to CNN.

"While the vast majority of workers in Qatar are fairly treated, we recognise that a minority are not. That is why we are reforming labour laws and practices," he added.

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