In the villages, there is a saviour and he is simply called ‘agent’. He takes on the garb of the bogeyman in global migration narratives. The corrupt recruitment agent preying on gullible citizens and packing them off to hostile shores.
The truth lies between the two guises. There has been little or no effort in streamlining recruitment agents in Nepal. Word on the streets is that the owners of the agencies are politically well-connected.
Countries of destination too often shirk their responsibility in curtailing trafficking. As far as they are concerned it’s a problem of and limited to sending countries.
Ka-ching! Economics trumps humanity
The reason recruitment agents have a free run is because about a fourth of Nepal’s $19.4 billion GDP is through remittances. According to the World Bank, in 2013, Nepal received $5,551,527,542 in personal remittances. This is not accounting for money transfer through illegal channels.
Little wonder the country is reluctant to rock the boat and jeopardise manpower export. There is little monitoring of agents and training centres, and migration is so widespread there are no mechanisms in place to reach out to remote parts of Nepal.
Laxman Basnet, General Secretary of South Asian Regional Trade Union Council, at a recent ILO event said 55% of households in Nepal were dependent on a migrant family member and their remittances.
This naturally takes the pressure off the government to provide for the citizens.
Yet, there’s an opportunity to arrive at the same results by making the process cleaner and more ethical, without preventing citizens from migration.