Six Nepali migrant workers are being sheltered at the Ujjawala Girls’ Home at Lamphel in Imphal run by Ningthoujam Biren Singh, the secretary of the Ujjawala Girls’ Home, after they have been released from the Manipur Central Jail on 18th May 2020. They were jailed by the Moreh police after being caught, allegedly carrying false documents. The documents were arranged by the agents who allegedly tried to traffic them from Nepal to Kuwait. They were stopped and caught at Moreh when the Moreh border police grew suspicious of visas they had on them.
When this reporter visited the home and to seek an interview with them to find out how they ended up there. The six were five women and a girl (19 years old).
Their names are withheld. These migrant workers are neither malefactors nor fugitives. They got into an unprecedented problem when they were making their journey from Nepal to Kuwait for their work. Many Nepali people go abroad in pursuit of work to be able to survive and feed their families. They usually come from poor homes and are often deprived of good jobs because of lack of education due to poverty.
The stories of these six women are not so different. They all come from poor families and are out in the world in search of better jobs because of poverty. They are mostly uneducated and naïve, thus, are prey for traffickers and people who are looking for an opportunity to exploit such vulnerable and needy women.
The 19-year-old migrant told said she was the sole bread earner of her family since both her parents were unemployed and she has to look for work after leaving school in order to be able to send her younger brother to school. The six of them met at Moreh. They were all directed by the same agents who guided them through calls on their mobile phones. These agents have allegedly fled. They have misguided the migrant workers since they are responsible for making their documents and getting them the visas that they need to get across different countries and to Kuwait from Nepal.
They were brought to Manipur from Nepal via Siliguri in December 2019, guided by a Nepali woman agent called Sushmita Limbu who is around 35-40 years old. The six Nepali migrant workers were to go to Kuwait from Myanmar and they were to pass the Indian border through Moreh which is the Indo-Myanmar border. One of the migrants said they reached Moreh from Imphal on 12th December 2019. She said that they were to meet their Burmese agent, an old Nepali man who lives in Myanmar and whose name they do not know. They were to meet this man, who is nowhere to be seen now, once they had had crossed the India-Myanmar bridge border. The migrant said that they were stirred by one agent in Nepal, in one in Guwahati and another in Myanmar.
Ningthoujam Biren Singh explained that they were held in jail because the Moreh police suspected their Indian visas to be fake. However, they had genuine Nepali citizen ID cards. An Indian man of Nepali descent called Raju Adhikari, one of the migrant’s brother’s friend in Manipur was contacted by the women migrants’ family member. The family member was contacted through a generous constable at the jail because they were not given a proper opportunity to neither call any family member or ask for a lawyer.
Raju Adhikari then became the legal local guardian of the women and helped them obtain an Indian lawyer, through money sent from Nepal by the migrant workers’ family members who were in Nepal. They were also looking for them and could not get in touch with the migrants since their phones and passports were seized by the Moreh Police. One of the migrants has a four-year-old daughter who she hasn’t spoken to for the last seven months because the Moreh police have still not released their phones and she could not remember her home number as other migrants did. The number however is on her seized phone.
By PR bond, the women were bailed out of jail and a social worker called K. Tamang who is from Mantripukhri, who also became their legal local guardian here helped them out by arranging a place to stay at Kanglatombi in Manipur. They stayed at Kanglatombi for a week and then the social worker contacted the Ujjawala Girls’ Home seeking for asylum until the women’s matter was resolved and until they could be repatriated home to Nepal.
With Ningthoujam Biren Singh’s permission, the six Nepali migrant workers were brought the Ujjawala’s Girls’ Home at Lamphel.
These women migrants leave their homes in search of jobs to Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon etc. The migrant women also said that there is an organization in Kuwait that works with Nepali agents in various places to get them migrant workers to work as house maids and domestic help in Kuwait and this particular organization that they were told that recruited them through their agents, the migrants said, is situated in a region called Al-Faiha in Kuwait.
They are just desperate for a good paying job and that is why they take this job and risk their lives and travel far just so that they can keep themselves and their families afloat.
One of the older migrants said she used to work for a very good organization before there were issues about sending Nepali migrant workers from Nepal by the Nepal government because of some complaints by the migrant workers regarding being sexually abused. She said that her ex-employers even sent plane tickets etc and that she was paid well. She went back home to Nepal because she had to remove a tumor from her womb because she was suffering from cervical cancer. This time, she said that they were “bashed by fate because of trusting bad agents”.
Ajay Sahu, the lawyer for the migrants told me that the women can be repatriated anytime but they have to be present in court on the required days ordered by the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Moreh order issued by the Court under Magistrate Arshad Saeed Shah, because the final verdict has not been reached yet. Their local guardian, Raju Adhikari said there are few buses that are available to go to Siliguri due to the corona virus, now-a-days. The migrants will be travelling from Imphal via Siliguri to Panitanki, into Nepal. He said, “Once we get a bus, we can send them home. They are legally allowed to go back home.”
Ajay Sahu also said there are two more Nepali migrant worker women in the Manipur Central Jail right now. They also need help.
The migrants were also checked for corona virus and all of them are not infected by the virus.
Writer at IRAP