CESLAM Kathmandu Migration Conference 2022


CESLAM Kathmandu Migration Conference 2022
organised by
the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM)
at Social Science Baha
was held on 
16-17 February 2022
(Wednesday and Thursday)
via Zoom.

(All times are in Nepal time)

Day 1: 16 February 2022 (Wednesday)
7.30 pm–10:30 pm              

7:30 pm–7:35 pm
Welcome remarks: Nirmal Man Tuladhar
Chair, Social Science Baha

Panel 1: Health and Well-Being of Migrant Workers
7:35–8:55 pm

Chair: Uma Pradhan
Lecturer, University College London

  1. Issues on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Nepali Migrants in Japan
    Masako Tanaka,
    Professor, Sophia University, Japan
  1. Pre-departure Psychological Distress, Associated Factors and Perception of Risk Factors at Workplace among Migrant Workers of Nepal
    Om Poudel,
    Independent Scholar
  1. Nepali Migrant Returnees’ Psychological Distress and Stressor
    Khagendra Acharya,
    Kathmandu University

Break: 8:55–9:10 pm

Panel 2: Cross-Border Mobility and Human Trafficking
9:10–10:30 pm

Chair: Padam Simkhada
Professor of Global Health, University of Huddersfield, UK

  1. Nexus between Migration and Trafficking and its Impacts on Socio-Psychology of Nepalis
    Aman Kumar,
    Centre Coordinator, Child Rights Centre, Chanakya National Law University, India
  1. In-migration in Nepal from Neighbouring Indian States: A Study on Labour Migration from India to Nepal
    Tushar Dakua,
    PhD Scholar, International Institute for Population Studies, India
    Kailash Chandra Das, Professor, International Institute for Population Studies, India
  1. Human Trafficking for Labour Migration: A Media Analysis of How International Routes from Nepal Have Changed
    Arjun Kharel, Sadikshya Bhattarai, Prajesh Aryal, Sudhir Shrestha,
    Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility; Pauline Oosterhoff, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex; Karen Snyder, Snyder Consulting, Canada

Day 2: 17 February 2022 (Thursday)
7:30 pm–10:05 pm                                                                         

Panel 1: Experiences of Migrant Workers and Families
7:35–8:55 pm
Chair: Kailash Chandra Das
Professor, Department of Migration & Urban Studies, International Institute for Population Sciences

  1. Return Mobility in Nepal: Dismantling the Myth
    Alba Castellsague Bonada,
    Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Girona, Spain
  1. Impact of Covid-19 upon the Migrant Bharias (Porters) In Darjeeling Town
    Ambika Rai,
    PhD Scholar, University of North Bengal
  1. Impact of Parents’ Migration on Children Left Behind in Nepal: A Case Study of Private Boarding School
    Dinu Bajracharya,
    Principal, REED Model School/College, Kathmandu, Nepal

Break: 8:55–9:10 pm

Panel 2: Migration Process of Nepali Men and Women
9:10–10:05 pm
Chair: Hari Dhungana
Associate Professor, Faculty of Management and Law, Nepal Open University

  1. Visual Anthropology of Migration Histories: Discovering Mobilities of Nepali Women through Visuals
    Sanjay Sharma,
    PhD Candidate, National University of Singapore
  1. Selling Opportunities and Networking Trust: Brokering Labour from Nepal
    Kathrin Fischer,
    Doctoral Candidate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Centre on Migration, Policy & Society, University of Oxford

10:05 pm
Closing remarks 


1. Visual Anthropology of Migration Histories: Discovering Mobilities of Nepali Women through Visuals
Sanjay Sharma, PhD Candidate, National University of Singapore

This research uses visual anthropology to explore the migration histories of Nepali women, specifically the ones related to the Gurkha soldiers. Using personal and archival photographs of migrants and their families, this research uncovers mobility patterns and migration histories of Nepali women. The paper uses photographs collected through various sources to build a narrative that deals not just with migration histories and destinations that go beyond South Asia, but the larger meanings that individuals attach to the photographs. This research goes beyond the ‘factual data’ that the photographs ‘reveal’ by talking to the individuals in the photos or those possessing the photos about the contexts and experiences attached in those photos. The photos, taken primarily during the twentieth century, help individuals not just reminisce about the past, but also to critically reflect about their migration pathways and experiences retrospectively.

2. Impact of Covid-19 upon the Migrant Bharias (Porters) In Darjeeling Town
Ambika Rai, PhD Scholar, University of North Bengal

The impact that Covid-19 pandemic has left upon the people all around the globe is immeasurable. One of the most affected groups amongst all is the migrant labourer who works in the informal sector. The haunting stories and photographs that revealed the helplessness, particularly of the migrants, still loom in the memory. The pandemic has further added to their vulnerability and precarity. Losing their source of income on one hand and savings getting exhausted on the other with little or no assistance from the government, migrants were thrown into a pool of abject uncertainty.  

This paper attempts to assess the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 pandemic upon one such particular migrant group who labours in and around the Himalayan town of Darjeeling. These migrants are locally known as bharia. The other nomenclatures with which these bharias are identified with are namley, coolie, and so on. The bharias who work in Darjeeling town have migrated from the neighbouring Himalayan country of Nepal and have taken up the job of head porterage to earn a livelihood. The locals who work as bharias are fewer in number as compared to the migrants who have come from Nepal. These bharias are a seemingly insignificant, invisible, and imperceptible section of the urban landscape, ever present but remain unnoticed. This paper aims to understand the pattern of their movement across Indo-Nepal border, particularly between Nepal and the Darjeeling town, further focusing on whether the pandemic has initiated any changes in the pattern of their migration. Along with the challenges faced by the migrant bharias, the paper also aims to understand their coping mechanism during the time of the  pandemic and their life thereafter.

3. Pre-departure Psychological Distress, Associated Factors and Perception of Risk Factors at Workplace among Migrant Workers of Nepal
Om Poudel, Independent Scholar

Many low-skilled and cheap labour have migrated to the gulf countries from Nepal; they work in risky conditions, which results in an accident, disabilities as well as physical and mental abuse. There is limited evidence regarding the mental health issues of migrant workers during the pre-departure phase, which has created a gap in the provision of counseling and coping mechanisms to promote mental health of migrant workers at the destination countries. The primary objective of this study was to identify the prevalence and associated factors of psychological distress among migrant workers during the pre-departure phase. Besides, another objective was to describe the perception of risk factors at the workplace for psychological distress during the pre-departure phase.

A cross-sectional study was carried out on migrant workers, departing to GCC countries during their pre-departure orientation training using a validated questionnaire. This questionnaire had three parts: socio-demographic and foreign employment-related questions, DASS-21 to measure psychological distress, and perception scale to measure perception of risk factors at the workplace. This tool was self-administered to the 445 consenting migrant workers from eight pre-departure training institutes for eight weeks. Mean, frequency, and percentage were computed for descriptive analysis, and bivariate and multivariate logistic regression was carried out to identify the associated factors with psychological distress as well as anxiety, depression, and stress.

Prevalence of psychological distress was measured as 20.9% among the study population along with depression at 25.3%, anxiety at 29.4% and stress at 12.8%. In the final multivariate analysis, psychological distress was higher for females (AOR = 2.016, p = 0.04) and perception of bad working conditions (AOR = 2.44, p = 0.04). Depression was found to be lower among those who smoked and had alcohol in the last one month (AOR = 0.36, p = 003), and those who perceived that they will not be able to change their work (AOR = 0.563, p = 0.038). Whereas depression was more among those who had a perception of bad working conditions (AOR = 3.004, p = 0.017) and would not be getting rest at work (AOR = 2.154, p= 0.01). Similarly, anxiety was higher for those with perception of poor safety measures at work (AOR = 2.48, p = 0.01), food problems (AOR = 1.95, p = 0.01), and unfavorable weather (AOR = 2.11, p = 0.01. Likewise, stress was higher for females (AOR = 2.37, p = 0.03).

Results suggested that migrant workers are facing significant mental health problems during the pre-departure phase. Pre-departure screening of the severity of symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress among migrant workers would help to decrease the problem of psychological distress at different phases of migration with the provision of general counseling and counseling for a coping mechanism. Association of perception of bad working conditions, poor safety measures and not getting rest at the workplace with psychological distress necessitates the need for more in-depth qualitative study and specific training packages during the pre-departure orientation.

4. Selling Opportunities and Networking Trust: Brokering Labour from Nepal
Kathrin Fischer, Doctoral Candidate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Centre on Migration, Policy & Society, University of Oxford

A chain of intermediaries connects Nepali migrants to their workplace abroad, and despite the growing institutionalisation and regulation of migration, migrants tend to pay a multitude of the legal maximum [charges] for this mediation. Looking at the intermediary chain between the EU and Nepal, and the ways in which migration opportunities are produced and sold, shows that the opportunity for the prospective migrant is a commodity on an international market in which players drive up the price in their negotiation of opportunities and risk. Brokers draw on their personal networks to both recruit workers from village level, and to lower the risk of getting caught by the police. The same network permits them to find trustful business relations abroad. The intermediary chain also draws attention to the multiple processes of translation and conversion involved. Rather than being purely economic and based on global income-differentials alone, these transactions include the business and life plans of three very different groups of actors. The migration intermediaries’ business model depends on forging these different interests into one transaction. Ultimately, the opportunity for a company to save money by importing cheap labour is an opportunity for the intermediaries to sell the position as an opportunity to the potential migrant. This adaptability and malleability of the opportunity, the ability of one actor’s opportunity to fit with another one’s, and its ability to bind together the actors with very different interests and in very different parts of the world, I argue, is the very backbone of international recruitment chains.

5. Issues on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Nepali Migrants in Japan
Masako Tanaka, Professor, Sophia University, Japan

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognise the positive contribution of migrants and identify migrants as 'vulnerable people'. However, little attention is paid to migrant women in the implementation process of SDGs. Goal 3 states, explicitly target 3.7, ‘by 2020, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs’. However, migrant women cannot access contraceptive devices since each country has different rules and regulations though they may be familiar with their home countries’ policies on contraception. 

According to the Ministry of Justice, the Government of Japan as of the end of June 2021, 97,026 Nepali nationals reside in Japan. Out of them, 41,282 (43%) are women and most of them are of reproductive age. One previous study revealed that 10 per cent of Nepali women migrants had abortions in Japan. This study aimed to identify the gaps and changes in migrants’ needs to fulfil SRHR before and after migration to Japan. The research collected data through the online survey and Focus Group Discussions of Nepali men and women and key informant interviews with healthcare professionals in Nepal and Japan. 

The available contraceptive device in Japan is mainly limited to condoms that women need to rely on their male partners to use. Though Intra-Uterine devices (IUD) or permanent methods are also available in Japan, it is too costly for migrant women to apply because health insurance schemes do not cover these. There are no over-the-counter (OTC) contraceptive devices that women can use in Japan. They need to see gynecologists and get prescriptions to buy oral contraceptive pills or morning-after pills, the so-called abortion pill. It will be difficult for migrant women to use them due to financial constraints and language barriers. Therefore, migrant women often ask their friends or relatives to send contraceptive devices from Nepal by postal services. However, such medicines are not always in good condition. In addition, it is difficult for women migrants to take them appropriately. As a result, some of them got pregnant or sick and may need abortion care. 

The survey results found that few people had known about the differences in contraception options and costs in Nepal and Japan before coming to Japan. Not only women but also men share information on SRHS through the community network. The study found that it is necessary not only for pregnancy, childbirth, and abortion but also information on fertility treatment and that consultations on social security aspects such as health insurance and local government subsidy systems are required. The paper concludes the importance of including SRHR in pre-departure training in Nepal as source country and organising post-arrival training in Japan as destination country.

6. Return Mobility in Nepal: Dismantling the Myth
Alba Castellsague Bonada, Post Doctoral Fellow, University of Girona (UdG), Spain

Return is a complex and polysemic social phenomenon of great importance to the study of mobility and migration in recent years. This paper explores, in the first place, the complex conceptualisation of the term, going beyond the classic understanding of return as the ending of a migration process. Second, this paper identifies the existence of a particular rhetoric of return in Nepal, which arises from the mobility-development nexus, that builds strong expectations about the returnee’s contributions to the development of their hometowns. But the return is much more than a concept, so we also explore it as an experience, building upon the narrative of a young Sherpa girl who is negotiating her role and identity through her own experiences of return. This paper shows the relevance of a gender perspective in understanding the mobility- development nexus in Nepal and, even more, the contradictions of the rhetoric of return.

7. Impact of Parents Migration on Children Left Behind in Nepal: A Case Study of Private Boarding School
Dinu Bajracharya, Principal, REED Model School/College, Kathmandu, Nepal

The purpose of this study is to identify and illustrate the psychological impacts on left-behind children and the different effects on their academic performance due to one or both parents' migration. Additionally, the study also identifies the roles of various actors not limited to parents but also schools, teachers, and and school administration.

The Act Relating Children, 2075 (2018) chapter 2(7) of Nepal states that the right of children to live with parents and to have proper care, protection, love, and affection from both parents or other guardians. UNCRC Article 10 and 18 also emphasise ‘Family Reunification’ and ‘Parental Primary Care Responsibility’, which focus on the rights of children to be with parents regularly and the primary responsibility of parents toward children for upbringing and development of the child.

Although the parents/guardians have the primary responsibility for upbringing and development of the children, many Nepali parents leave their children at their hometown or a city like Kathmandu under the care and supervision of grandparents, guardians, and boarding schools. Such children are known as ‘Children Left Behind’ (CLB), and according to UNICEF (n.d.), CLB refers to children who were ‘raised in their home countries or in their countries of habitual residence, who have been left behind by adult migrants’.

In the context of Nepali migration, the migrated population rate had increased aproximetly double from 8.7 percent in 2001 to 24.5 percent in 2021(UN-world population prospects, Macrotrend, 2022). The labor force rate of working abroad has reached 25 percent and the increase in rate of female migration is comparatively higher than male (World Bank 2020). The key aspiration of parents working abroad is to give their children a good education. If both parents are absent, the children are mostly left with grandparents, guardians, or kept at a private boarding school. Private hostel facilities are commonly available in many boarding schools and some renowned community schools as well. As an infrastructural facility, hostels become the best accommodation choice for left-behind children. However, a long-term foreign employment/migration of parents has a negative impact on both children's psychological and academic performance (Zhao,C., et al. 2018) .

A research method involving both quantitative and qualitative methods like questionnaire survey, case study, Focus Group Discussions, semi-structured interviews, Key Informant Interviews has been adopted for this study. Major stakeholders of the study are: a) School-going children whose parents (one or both) are currently migrated abroad, and b) Principals and caretakers of boarding school. For the case study of CLB a private “B” ranked boarding school has been selected as a sample school.

The finding shows that left-behind children are reluctant to share their problems with their parents since they know that parents cannot solve them due to physical and psychological distances. The findings also shows that due to the educational background of parents, their presence or absences did not provide any support on CLB’s school education. Chain migration of family members, specifically elder sibling’s and  male sibling’s migration, creates a feeling of abandonment. Prevailing gender discrimination directly or indirectly also affects negatively the relationship of grandparents/guardians and CLB.

8. Nexus between Migration and Trafficking and Its Impacts on Socio-Psychology of Nepalis
Aman Kumar, Centre Coordinator, Child Rights Centre, Chanakya National Law University, India

Nepal is a landlocked country geographically divided into three regions of mountains, hills, and Tarai. There are 77 districts in Nepal, but population distribution in all communities is uneven due to various reasons like lack of industries, lack of income-generation opportunities, natural disasters, not having infrastructure, etc. Due to this uneven distribution of land and varied climatic conditions, the migration rate in Dhanusha, Siraha, Jhapa, Mahottari, Morang and almost all the districts near India’s border is high. According to Kathmandu Post, dated 22 August 2021, Nepali migrant workers sent home Rs961.05 billion in the last fiscal year. This migration sometimes leads to many other social issues like the trafficking of children across the border and within Nepal at different tourist places. USA TIP report 2021 stated that human traffickers had exploited domestic and foreign victims in Nepal in the past five years, and traffickers exploit Nepali victims abroad. This report also explained that Traffickers use Nepal’s open border with India to transport Nepali women and children to India for sex trafficking. The risk of people being trafficked from Nepal is mediated mainly by the porous border with, and economic opportunities in more accessible cities of India through informal networks facilitating movement that leads to exploitation of migrants. One of the prime issues in today's era is differentiating between migration and trafficking. The concerned officers who are deployed at the border lack awareness regarding this. Because of this problem and confusion between trafficking and migration, many people working on anti-trafficking issues face many problems identifying and differentiating the cases.

This paper explores how Nepal is suffering from the twin issues of migration and trafficking and its impact on Nepalis' socio-economical and socio-psychological conditions. This paper will also explain the different places in Nepal and India where the rate of migration and trafficking of Nepalis is high. This is a working paper that will devise some suggestions for minimising these issues.

9. In-migration in Nepal from Neighboring Indian States: A Study on Labour Migration from India to Nepal
Tushar Dakua, PhD Scholar, International Institute for Population Studies, India
Kailash Chandra Das, Professor, International Institute for Population Studies, India

The current study explores the in-migration scenario in Nepal from neighbouring Indian states. This paper aim to address the goal number 17th of SDG, where migratory status, geographic location, legal identity, documentation, managing borders, and remittances were in focus. This is a study on labour migration from India to Nepal based on Vande Bharat Mission data. Under this mission nearly (14 thousand people) were repatriated from Nepal to India through Air India flights, in phase 8+ phase 9, phase 9+, and phase 10. Nepal stood at the top with (26 thousand population) requested for repatriation in South-Asian region. This is then followed by Bangladesh (11 thousand population), Srilanka, Bhutan, Pakistan with numbers less than 10 thousand people. Occupation wise we found that (93% workers) from India has registered the most in the repatriation program from Nepal to India. Which is then followed by others (5.03%), Professionals (0.50%), tourist (0.44%), visitors (0.46%), and students (0.32%). The workers are mainly employed in brick-kiln industries of Nepal as seasonal workers, and plywood industries of Nepal as full-time/one-year contractual worker.

According to Adhyagaman Book Nepal, one can find out that migration to Nepal from India is quite significant in number. An average of 15000 people heading towards Nepal from the Indian side throughout the year of 2019. The month of October is showing maximum number (30513 people), as this is the harvesting month of ‘kharif crops’ observed in India. So, people went to work after finishing their agricultural works. In a report of Middle ganga plain, there are (13.5%) of migrants from Bihar heading towards Nepal. According to Global bilateral migration data, India to Nepal is having a higher number of people (8 lakhs people) as out-migrants than the reverse scenario of Nepal to India with only (5 lakhs people) as in-migrants in India.

10. Nepali Migrant Returnees’ Psychological Distress and Stressor
Khagendra Acharya, Kathmandu University
Arjun Kharel, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility

The massive outflow of Nepalese as a part of their living strategy is a quite recent phenomenon; scholars have often associated such migration either with the internal conflict that started in 1996 or global economic liberalization towards the end of the century. It was in this decade the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Malaysia became major destinations for migrant workers. Given the nature of acute adversities that Nepali migrant workers like those moving out from developing countries to the developed ones face in these countries, they often experience distress. This study, through sequential mixed method, examined the psychological distress of Nepali migrant returnees from seven major destinations, namely Malaysia, the state of Qatar, the Republic of Korea, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain, Israel and Jordan. The findings reveal early return from the destination, visit visa, and less-earning than expenditure as the major causes of distress.

11. Human Trafficking for Labour Migration: A Media Analysis of How International Routes from Nepal Have Changed  
Arjun Kharel, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility
Sadikshya Bhattarai, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility
Prajesh Aryal, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility
Sudhir Shrestha, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility
Pauline Oosterhoff, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
Karen Snyder, Snyder Consulting, Canada

Media’s portrayal and framing of news related to human trafficking play a vital role in shaping public perception and opinions. The media also have key roles in steering discussions in the political sphere and policy formulations. In this context, this study aimed to understand the reported changes in international routes of human trafficking from Nepal for labour migration in the previous five years and examine the media portrayal of different actors involved in human trafficking, such as suspected victims and alleged perpetrators. Mixed methods were used to conduct the study, consisting of a review of existing data and publications on human trafficking, content analysis of news archives from six sampled national newspapers, and interviews with newspaper reporters and editors on issues surrounding human trafficking reporting. The study finds that India still remains the top trafficking destination, while countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), North America, Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia have also been reported as new trafficking destinations. The paper further finds that Myanmar along with some countries in Europe, Africa and Latin America have emerged as new transits for human trafficking from Nepal. Labour trafficking and sex trafficking were the most reported examples of human trafficking. Most alleged perpetrators in the news reports were male, while females dominated reportage on 'victims'. 

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