As the number of Nepalis who die in Qatar continues to rise, a former ambassador who was stationed here for five years has begun speaking out against the treatment of his compatriots.
In an interview with CNN this week, Suryanath Mishra, Nepal’s ambassador to Qatar from 2007 to 2012, said that because many Nepalis here lack education and technical skills, they are amongst the country’s most exploited labor groups.
“Nepali migrant workers have the lowest per capita income in Qatar,” he told the channel, adding that some 55 percent of Nepali migrant workers deaths here are the result of “sudden” cardiac arrest, 20 percent are from work-related accidents, 15 percent from traffic accidents and 10 percent are suicides.
“The cause of deaths needs to be investigated properly, and urgently,” he said. “In general, it is due to tension led by exploitation, adverse climate, poor working and living conditions and alcoholic intoxication.”
There are about 400,000 Nepalis working in Qatar, according to embassy officials.
CNN cites Nepal government figures as stating that that more than 290 workers have died here in the last 420 days.
But autopsies are rarely conducted on workers in Qatar, which make determining the precise cause of death difficult.
Pay hikes urged
After Mishra’s term, Dr. Maya Kumari Sharma served as ambassador to Doha. But she was recalled by the Nepali government less than halfway into her term in 2013, and no new ambassador has been named.
Mishra’s comments come weeks after officials in Nepal formally asked Qatar to review the salaries of nationals here and set a minimum wage.
In January, Suresh Man Shrestha, secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Labor and Employment, said authorities had not yet agreed to the idea, which was also raised in 2013.
At that time, the Nepal embassy in Qatar told Doha News that it was asking that the minimum wage for its nationals be raised from QR800 (US$220) – which includes a monthly food allowance – to a total of QR1,200 ($330).
It’s not immediately clear what became of that proposal.
Speaking to Doha News last fall, a manager of one local manpower agency said that the standard monthly salary for Nepalese laborers was QR900 ($247). But skilled workers can make up to QR1,200 a month, he added.
Many Nepalis flock to Qatar to earn money for their families back home. CNN interviewed relatives of a recently deceased man upon his body’s return to his village in Dhanusha district.
Kishun Das left Nepal for Qatar eight months ago, to help support his five children and extended family members. The 38-year old’s cause of death was not known to his relatives.