With few employment opportunities inside the country, work abroad seems an attractive option to many young Nepalese. The Safer Migration project, SaMi, provides potential migrant workers with relevant information, training and services to help them make informed choices, and avoid exploitation. SaMi also supports the migrants’ families to cope with emotional stress, and make the best use of funds sent home.
Over the years, migration for foreign employment has become an essential source of income for many Nepalese households. It is estimated that some 1,500-2,000 Nepalese, the majority of them young men, leave the country daily - mainly to Malaysia and countries in the Gulf region. But there are risks: the potential for exploitation during recruitment and employment is high, and there is often little guarantee of on-the-job safety, or respect for the rights of the migrant workers.
In this context, SaMi has gained a reputation as a standout success in Nepal and the South Asian region. It works in 19 districts that have particularly high rates of labor migration, including Kathmandu. Begun in July 2011, SaMi is a joint initiative of the Government of Nepal and the Government of Switzerland, implemented by Helvetas.
SaMi provides potential migrant workers with accurate and relevant information on safer migration so that they can make an informed decision to protect themselves from fraud, exploitation and trafficking. They are also advised on different employment options and requirements. Over the years 2014 to 2017, 48,900 (22% women) potential migrants received advice from what are now called Migration Resource Centers. For women and others from a disadvantaged background, SaMi also offers free of cost vocational training so that they can obtain skilled or semi-skilled employment.
Tapeshwar Raut, Returnee migrant and volunteer at Information and Counselling Centre
SaMi also offers financial literacy classes to family members – mainly women - left behind. Some 3238 individuals, of whom most are women, have benefitted from this training over 2014 - 2017. Through the classes, they learn how to put the money sent home to best use, as well as better understanding the “do’s” and “don’ts” of migration. Bridging the common information gap between the migrant and those at home is an important part of making migration a success for the household. For those who have been cheated, bereaved or otherwise traumatized, including returnee migrants, SaMi offers legal / paralegal services and psychosocial counselling.
SaMi / Helvetas staff collaborate closely with the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security – discussing international migration trends and providing practical evidence from migrant experiences. This is in turn used to improve the Government of Nepal’s Foreign Employment system for the better protection of migrant workers.
In its third phase (2018 - 2022), Helvetas will continue to provide technical support to SaMi. In this capacity, SaMi/Helvetas will also collaborate with civil society actors, the private sector and non-governmental service providers.