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A nation on the move

A nation on the move

The year 2023 witnessed a significant movement of Nepali citizens seeking opportunities, education, and a new chapter in their lives. The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) has unveiled compelling insights into the diverse reasons and destinations that have shaped the migration trends of Nepalis.

A staggering total of 1,603,836 Nepalis embarked on journeys to different corners of the globe in 2023. What makes this migration wave intriguing is the varied purposes that propelled these individuals to leave the country.

Among the migrants, 70,915 Nepalis chose to make a new home abroad, embracing permanent residency. This group, comprising 36,663 males and 34,251 females, reflects a growing desire for stability and long-term settlement beyond their homeland. Political instability, poor economy and lack of job and business opportunities are driving many individuals and families to migrate. 

The pursuit of employment opportunities also led a significant number, 808,415 to be exact, to venture abroad under employment visas. Notably, 271,088 Nepalis landed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), signaling the lure of job prospects in the Middle East. While these migrant workers are an integral part of Nepal’s remittance-reliant economy, their departure also reveals the sorry state of rural Nepal, where villages are either empty or populated only by women, children and elderly citizens

Government ministers and politicians boast of road, education and electricity access in far-flung regions of the country, but the reality is that the number of beneficiaries is fast dwindling. Excess migration has also caused the farmland in many parts of the country to go uncultivated.   

Besides job opportunities, education is another key catalyst that is prompting Nepali youths to visit abroad, with 108,542 Nepalis opting for student visas. The surge in applications for no objection letters for overseas studies suggests a growing appetite for educational pursuits beyond national borders. It is important to note that until and unless the government creates career opportunities at home, foreign educated youths are less likely to return to the country. 

The top destinations for Nepali migrants in 2023 spanned across India, Qatar, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan, the US, the UK, Kuwait, South Korea, Thailand, Canada, China, and Hong Kong. This diverse list underlines the global footprint of Nepali citizens seeking opportunities that are not available at home.

The 2021 census reveals a notable shift, with the number of women migrating abroad increasing by a remarkable 71 percent over the past decade. Out of the 2,169,478 Nepalis residing abroad, 404,103 are females, reflecting a changing trend in gender dynamics among migrants. This also comes with its own sets of challenges, particularly concerning trafficking of women. 

Stories about Nepali women getting trafficked to an unknown country and getting abused and tortured are all too common. Human trafficking rackets under the guise of overseas job agencies have long been supplying Nepali women, mainly to the Middle East, by luring them with the promise of well-paying jobs. 

A closer look at the data reveals a spike in Nepalis heading to countries like Poland, Malta, and Portugal. The allure of permanent residency has drawn 10,638 Nepalis to Portugal, 5983 to Malta, and 5834 to Poland. Recently, there have been reports about Nepalis paying exorbitant amounts of money to the so-called foreign employment companies and agents to enter Europe and North America. 

Reports have also emerged about Nepalis being recruited in Russia's army in its conflict with Ukraine. The numbers indicate that 1,795 Nepalis visited Russia, with the majority under visit visas, since the war broke out in February 2022. Additionally, 95 Nepalis ventured to Ukraine during these tumultuous times. Nearly a dozen Nepalis have lost their lives in the war and many more are said to be injured or missing, but the government has done little to investigate their whereabouts and bring them back home. 

The 2023 migration trend paints a stark reality of Nepal, a country caught in a deep mire of corruption, poor economy, political instability and unemployment. It also paints a complex tapestry of dreams, challenges and aspirations of its citizens.