By Om Astha Rai
Migration is not a new phenomenon in Nepal – Nepalis have been migrating for centuries in search of a better life.
In the 18th century, when Prithvi Narayan Shah annexed weaker states with his own Gorkha kingdom and gave birth to modern Nepal, many migrated to India to evade exploitative land tax by the new ruler. In 1815, Nepal signed a treaty with the East India Company, allowing the British to recruit Nepali youths into their army.
In more recent times there has been an upsurge in migration, driven by poverty, civil strife and war at home and the lure of jobs in the Gulf and in fast-growing economies such as Malaysia. This is a major story, affecting millions of people, but is gets little special attention in Nepali media.
In 1985, the Nepal government introduced a Foreign Employment Act to facilitate migration of workers. In 1990, after the end of the absolute monarchy and the restoration of multi-party democracy, the government adopted liberal economic policies, encouraging young, jobless people to migrate abroad and send home remittances.
In 1993, the first year official statistics on migration were compiled, 3,605 left for the Gulf. By 2006, the year a decade-long civil war ended in Nepal, that figure had jumped to more than 200,000.
The migration rate has continued to rise: according to official figures more than half a million migrated in 2014 – or nearly 1,500 per day. The government says that in total more than 3.4 million migrated through legal channels between 1993 and 2014:
Malaysia has received the highest number (1,144,859), followed by Qatar (910,204), Saudi Arabia (66,604), UAE (42,072), Kuwait (97,973), Bahrain (40,651), Oman (23,632), South Korea (22,131), Lebanon (11,432), Israel (7,937), Afghanistan (6,175), Japan (13,842).
This article is taken from the Ethical Journalism Network's report 'Moving Stories - International Review of How Media Cover Migration'
About the author
Om Astha Rai writes mainly for the Kathmandu based Nepali Times. He covers current affairs, the environment, climate change and migration: he recently won a national prize for a story on the mental problems suffered by returning Nepali migrant workers.
Read the other sections of the report here