PNCC Nepal: A Closer Look at Migrant-led Initiatives

In this blog series on non-governmental (NGO) and community service organizations (CSO), we highlight the activities of different NGOs and CSOs working on reintegration.

Pravasi Nepal Coordination Committee (PNCC) is one of the leading civil society organisations in Nepal working with returnee migrant workers in Nepal and the only CSO with team members in the destination countries working to assist migrants while they are abroad. Pravasi means migrant in Nepali and as you enter PNCC’s office premises, you are welcomed by the motto – ‘For the Migrants, by the Migrants’. This motto is not just words; PNCC was founded by return migrants in 2009 and is still run by a team with unwavering dedication to Nepalese migrant workers. Our team met with the PNCC leadership to learn more about their work.

Who is PNCC?

PNCC Nepal is a civil society organisation working as a non-profit and non-political institute that focuses on the protection and promotion of labour migrants’ rights in Nepal. PNCC was initially established as a committee in 1998 to operate rescue missions for distressed workers in Saudi Arabia. The founders were all migrants in Saudi Arabia at the time and saw the challenges faced by Nepali migrant workers. They decided that something needed to be done to assist the distressed workers—those who had experienced human rights abuses and had no way to return to Nepal. They began the committee to formalise support. Today, a core part of PNCC’s work is facilitating support for distressed workers for return and repatriation. This support often comes from within the Nepali diaspora abroad, where higher income migrants provide support for distressed migrants’ return and repatriation. In 2009, PNCC was officially registered through the coordination of returnee migrant workers who had a vision to expand their support for migrant workers to other destination countries from the Middle East and Malaysia.

What does PNCC do?

Currently, PNCC is at the forefront of facilitating rescue and repatriation support for migrant workers through its outreach centres in Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait. In Qatar, PNCC provides supports to migrants of all nationalities and works with the Qatar National Human rights Committee to provide advocacy and support to distressed migrants. The cooperation with the Qatar National Human rights Committee provides legitimacy that enables PNCC to place pressure on embassies to assist their nationals in a timely manner.

A core purpose of PNCC is to connect with migrant communities in destination countries so that they can facilitate support when needed. PNCC has thus maintained a well-established network with diaspora groups and diplomatic missions in destination countries. These networks have proven to be an important resource during crisis periods, such as the COVID-19 Pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PNCC was able to support more than 4,500 migrant workers in situations of distress. In non-crisis periods as well, PNCC receives almost 2000 cases for rescue and repatriation every year.

We realised that there should be some kind of informal way of supporting our people there. We have staff who can read and write the Arabic language very fluently. We are working closely with the Nepali diaspora community to help them build their capacity on how to respond during the cases.
PNCC Spokesperson

In Nepal, PNCC operates a shelter for repatriated individuals from destination countries, which provides essential support such as airport reception, accommodation and food, or medical treatments before they return to their communities in Nepal.

PNCC is actively engaged in Nepal through lobbying and advocacy for the protection of migrants’ rights in collaboration with other civil society organisations such as the National Network for Safe Migration, AMKAS Nepal, Pourakhi Nepal, Youth Action and others. The civil society organisations work together to organise national and regional level dialogues on important issues pertaining to safe and ethical recruitment practises, and reintegration of labour migrants in Nepal.

Certainly, there are lots of changes [when people come back]. They cannot catch up with those things immediately. And you have to spend some time, you know, the people are thinking like reintegration should be [snap of the fingers]. It is not happening. It takes a long time to reintegrate into society.
PNCC Spokesperson

In recent years, PNCC has also been actively working with more than 56 Migrant Resource Centres (MRC) coordinated by the Safer Migration Project (SaMi). Primarily working to facilitate rescue efforts through MRCs, PNCC has also initiated the systemisation and publication of reports about the demographics and trends of the cases they receive.

PNCC Research and Publications

In addition to its activities, PNCC works in research and publications to create data and awareness. We want to highlight a few recently published reports by PNCC in partnership with the Center for the Study of Labor and Mobility: our local collaborator from Nepal on the Reintegrate project.

Unscrupulous Recruitment and Precarious Employment of Nepali Migrant Workers. (2023). Jeevan Baniya, Sanjit Shretha, Sadikshya Bhattarai, Dogendra Tumsa, Bipin Upadhyaya, Rajib Neupane & Prasansa Thapa (available here).

Based on a PNCC database of 15,340 cases, this report provides a detailed analysis of the precarious work situations experienced by Nepali migrant workers in different destination countries within the Gulf and Malaysia. It centres the discussion around specific issues faced by migrant workers, such as recruitment fee extortion, which directly contradicts the “Free Visa, Free ticket” regulation instated by the Government of Nepal. The report further elaborates on migrant workers’ vulnerabilities intensified by the operation of unrecognised recruitment agencies or agents (individuals), malpractices within work contracts, occupational hazards for health and wellbeing, and risks of criminalisation.

Understanding Reintegration and Remigration of Nepali Labour Migrants. (2024). Sadikshya Bhattarai, Jeevan Baniya, Sanjit Shretha, Prasansa Thapa, Rajib Neupane, Dogendra Tumsa, Sita Nepali, & Sita Mademba. (available here).

The policy brief introduces return migration in Nepal as a byproduct of what the authors term ‘protracted temporariness’ in labour migration in Nepal. This temporary nature of migration underscores the need for reintegration support for return migrants in Nepal as their return is inevitable. The policy brief provides a brief background on the Foreign Employment Act 2007, Foreign Employment Rules, 2008, the Foreign Employment Policy, 2012, the Foreign Employment Welfare Fund (FEWF), the Reintegration Programme (Operation and Management) Directives for Returnee Migrant Workers and the Prime Minister Employment Programme (PMEP).

Return, Weak Reintegration, and Remigration: A study of Nepali Migrant Workers. (2023). Sadikshya Bhattarai, Jeevan Baniya, Sanjit Shretha, Prasansa Thapa, Rajib Neupane, Dogendra Tumsa, Sita Nepali, & Sita Mademba (available here)

This report is based on a survey of 109 returnees from PNCC’s records. It explored the state of economic reintegration, psychosocial reintegration, and the drivers of remigration. The results highlight challenges for returnee migrant workers, such as unemployment, incompatibilities abroad, loss of social networks and social relationships, and family insecurity being a key factor driving remigration. Furthermore, it emphasises the need for migrant-centric policies and programmes along with the upskilling and reskilling of returnee migrant workers, inclusion of family in their social security provisions and strengthening reintegration knowledge.

How does PNCC make a difference?

PNCC is the only organisation abroad that helps vulnerable migrants to return to Nepal. Their work is critical and lifesaving in assisting vulnerable migrants to return.

After return, PNCC is the primary advocate for further reintegration support. Their research and publications in partnership with CESLAM, provide evidence on the challenges of reintegration for vulnerable returnees and make informed policy recommendations to improve reintegration support in Nepal. PNCC is a central actor in advocating for migrants’ rights and reintegration support.

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