South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights


Even as Malaysia — where one third of Nepali migrants are currently working — assured a Nepali delegation that it would not return any Nepali worker with minor health problems, Nepali employees, who pass medical tests in their home country before flying overseas, continue to receive step-brotherly treatment

According to foreign employment agencies, many Nepali workers, who passed medical tests conducted by authorized health institutions in Nepal, have been forced to return home over the last couple of months.

“Five Nepali workers who landed in Malaysia through my own agency have been sent back,” said Kumud Khanal, general secretary of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA). “Dozens of other Nepali workers who went to Malaysia through other agencies have also been returned.”

Malaysian authorities during a meeting with Nepali delegation — which comprised officials from the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and the Ministry of Labor and Transport Management (MoLTM) as well as members of the NAFEA and the Nepal Health Professional Federation (NHPF) — in November had officially assured that they would not return Nepali workers with medical reports showing calcification on chest. Similarly, they had promised to not return Nepali employees without precisely stating the reasons for their “unsuitability”.

“Of late, Malaysia has begun stating reasons for a worker´s unsuitability,” said Khanal. “However, Malaysia still continues to return Nepali employees with medical reports showing calcification on chest. Two of the five returnees, who had been sent by our company, had the same problem.”

Calcification is the process in which calcium salts build up in soft tissue, causing it to harden. However, most Malaysian institutes, as Khanal says, often mistake it as an early sign of tuberculosis.

Khadga Bahadur Shrestha, president of NHPF, claimed that Malaysia has been returning Nepali workers in spite of its assurance. “I don´t know why, but Malaysia has not kept its own promise,” Shrestha told Republica.

From November of 2008 to October of 2010, a total of 488 workers, who landed in Malaysia after passing medical tests in Nepal, were forced to return after they failed medical tests in Malaysia. Of them, only 25 workers were unfit when they went through similar medical tests after returning to Nepal. “This problem continues to exist,” Shrestha said.

Dr Damodar Pokharel, Vice-chancellor of National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS), who was also a member of the Nepali delegation, says, “Malaysia, like any other country, can not send back workers just because their medical reports show calcification on chest. However, if they are returning Nepali workers with other serious health problems, then we should understand there are flaws in our own system of conducting medical examinations.”

Nepali workers spend up to Rs 100,000 to get a menial job in Malaysia. However, they run the risk of losing their hard-earned money if they fail medical tests there. Although the NHPF provides compensation to the returnees, it is too little, and often uncertain.