I was one of the Panos South Asia fellows writing on migration and labour in 2015. As part of the fellowship, I had to write at least five articles on migrant labourers.
Below are the links to the five articles published under the fellowship.
By the time I met my grandfather for the first and only time in 2000, his mental abilities were fast deteriorating. More often than not, he did not know where he was. He could not hear very well and he peed wherever he wanted. Yet, every now and then, he would regain his senses and peer at me and my sister with his one good eye and exclaim, “Oh, my granddaughters, my son’s daughters.” Then, within a few minutes, he would be sucked into his memories. One in particular stuck out: from the years he spent as a British army man in Malaysia – in the 1950s and 1960s, a time so far in the past, that his recounting entertained those watching him. But to him, he was a young soldier, standing once more in front of his commanding officer. He would recite over and over again, his rank, his name and his service number: Sergeant Nim Bahadur Pun. Service Number: 21134376. Sergeant Nim Bahadur Pun. Service Number: 21134376…
After a month-long vacation, Pushpa Bajracharya flew back to Dubai on Thursday, to resume his work as a merchandiser at a distribution company called Transmed Overseas, a job he has held for the last two-and-half years. When around two thousand people leave to work in the Gulf countries and Malaysia every day, his flight might seem like a normal occurrence–just another young person (he is 27 years old) passing through the departure gates in hopes of a better life. What is different with him is that unlike most migrant labourers who hail from the countryside, Pushpa is a native of Kathmandu, born and brought up in the neighbourhood of Sigal, and he has a bachelor’s degree in Management. His family has a background most migrants to the city dream of–a house and a shop in a prime location. And until he decided to leave for Dubai, he was a high school teacher, teaching Maths and Computer Science, and gave private tuition classes. In total, he was making Rs 25,000 a month–a starting salary for most migrant labourers abroad.
A migrant worker walking out of the arrivals terminal at the Tribhuvan International Airport is instantly recognizable. He has many large suitcases tightly tied with strings as if each suitcase were a salmon fish in a net. The sight of the strings around the suitcase gave rise to the widely-used moniker dori lahure (dori: a piece of string; lahure: anyone who goes abroad for work). These days, strings are being slowly replaced by cling-plastic wrap, as the latter is easier to use and fits the purpose better.
Published in the Kathmandu Post
About three weeks ago, Tika Rijal was walking out of his hostel—an apartment block where migrant workers are housed—in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, to buy a blanket to send home to Nepal. Around the corner, he ran into a policeman, who asked his name and then for his passport—a regular occurrence in Malaysia, where its police have the right to ask a civilian for his identification card. The citizens of the country carry what is called a Malaysian Card. For migrant workers, the equivalent is their passport, with a valid work permit stamped on the pages. But like 90 percent of the migrant labourers recruited in the country, Rijal’s passport is never with him. It is with the company he has been working at for the last 10 years, Domino’s Pizza. Instead of the passport, he usually carries a photocopy of the page that shows the work permit.