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Dead bodies of over 50 Nepalis rotting in Saudi capital

Over 50 dead bodies of Nepali migrant workers who had gone to foreign land in search of green pasture are waiting in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, to be ferried to Nepal, said a news report.

The workers had died of various reasons including traffic accidents, natural (heat/disease), workplace accidents, suicides, murders, and alcohol poisoning among others in the past one year and more, according to a news report published on Kantipur daily.

The situation is perilous as neither the Nepal government, which supplies a large number of unskilled labourers, nor the Saudi government, which receives them, has proper legislation in place to protect the rights of the migrant workers, reported the daily. Moreover, the victims’ families in Nepal are having a tough time receiving compensation for the deaths as many of them were illegally trafficked to the Gulf country.

Officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoFA) and the Nepali Embassy in Riyadh said it may take more than eight months before the bodies could be ferried to Nepal, as “many of the corpses reveal illegal residency status.”

“It is a very complicated job. We don’t have the exact data, but our rough estimate is that there could be around 50 bodies waiting to be given to their families in Nepal for the past one, and in some cases, more than two years,” an official at the Nepali Embassy in Riyadh was quoted as saying.

“The death rate is alarming. It is estimated that around 200 Nepali migrant workers die every month.” Statistics with the embassy in Riyadh show the office issued “No Objection Letters” to 12 dead bodies in just seven days in January. “Workers’ legality is always at stake. Once you change your first employer without permission, you are rendered illegal,” the official said.

Manpower crunch and logistics at the Nepali embassy is said to be adding to the woes when it comes to transporting the dead bodies.

Under the Saudi kafala law, it requires 13 different documents in Urdu and English, including police and postmortem reports, for a dead body to be given an “exit visa.”

Saudi is probably the only country which requires exit visa for even the dead bodies.

The same legal system is said to have been trapping most of the 90,000 Nepali workers, who want to return home, but are denied “exit visa”.

Statistics at the embassy in Riyadh show that only few of the deaths have been compensated and depending on the kind of insurance, the amount disbursed to the victims’ families range from 600 to 25,000 Saudi Riyals. “We can do little unless the Saudi government relaxes its strict laws”.

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