Exploitation of Nepali migrant workers: Bharat’s Story

This is the final blog in a three-part series which shines light on some of the realities faced by Nepali migrant workers throughout the three stages of the migration process: their recruitment; time in-country; and their return home. You can read the first blog here and the second blog here.

This last blog tells the story of “Bharat” who was stranded in Malaysia and then abandoned by his recruitment agency and government, and was forced to seek out a black market agent who charged extremely high fees, just to get home. 

Paying to escape my work

It cost me more to leave Malaysia than it had to arrive. I incurred double the losses, just to end up with nothing

In February 2016, I went to work in Malaysia in order to earn better money and take care of my parents and my siblings. After six months, I took the decision to leave. The hours I was being made to work, the conditions I was living in, and the money I was earning… it was not good enough.

I did not know that leaving would cost me even more than I had paid to get to Malaysia in the first place.

The work I did in Malaysia was different to what I had been promised. We would start our shift at 08.30 in the morning and end at 22:00 at night – around 14 hours a day. My accommodation was awful: 17 of us shared a very small room in a high-rise building. There was no security, and frequently people would walk in, threaten us or steal our belongings. I had been told that lodging, food and medical treatment would be covered by the company – but none of it was. My salary was lower than expected, despite working overtime, and I was unable to save. After a few months of working, I got very ill with dengue fever. The bills that I incurred for this were huge – and even though I begged the company to help me cover them, they refused to pay even a small amount.

I decided that I needed to go home. I mentioned wanting to leave to my company, but my boss told me my contract was for three years and I was not allowed to leave before I had done my time. I called the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur but was told that they had such a back-log of cases they could not help me – and that I would have to wait. Next, I called my family who tried to speak with the recruitment agency who had sent me. The agency said it was not their responsibility to bring me home – that the Malaysian company had to buy my flight ticket. I was at a loss.

A few days later, I managed to get hold of contact details of an agent in Malaysia who could apparently help me. He agreed to help me and pick me up the next night to take me to Kuala Lumpur, if I transferred MYR 4,000 (USD 935) into his bank account. I did not have this money, and I had to call my family in Nepal again. They took out a loan and wired me the money some days later. Just six months earlier, I had taken out a loan in order to pay the recruitment fees to get to Malaysia. Now my family had had to take out a second loan in order for me to leave Malaysia. I felt awful.

The agent arrived the following night. I had prepared a small bundle of clothes to make it seem I was going to the hospital again, and then I left the accommodation.

When we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the agent dropped me off at a hotel of some kind, and I stayed in a room with 10 other men who had also run away from their jobs and were trying to get home. We were not able to leave the room as we were now illegal. Our visas are tied to our jobs – and you need permission to leave your job, which we did not have. So for these 17 days, we stayed inside and waited.

I think the agent owned the hotel in Kuala Lumpur. When he finally came and told us that all the documentation was ready for us to leave Malaysia, he made us pay him for the 17 days we had stayed in the hotel, and for the food he had brought us. He asked us for the same amount again, I could not believe it: another MYR 4, 000 (USD 935). He told us if we didn’t pay, we would miss our chance to go home and be stranded.

When I boarded the flight, I did not feel relieved, or happy.  In total, it had cost me almost NPR 200,000 to leave Malaysia – and my family had had to take out a second loan. I am still repaying my debt.

Find out more: Read Amnesty International’s new report here: Turning people into profits: Abusive recruitment, trafficking and forced labour of Nepali migrant workers.