Missing Migrants of Nepal


Thousands of families and relatives of the missing persons all over the world continue to wait for their loved ones who have disappeared in course of armed conflict, disasters, migration or other events. They continue to live in ambiguity due to lack of accurate information. The ambiguous loss is one of the most painful, difficult loss to deal with as it is unclear and without closure.

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Having worked with families of missing persons (during armed conflict: 1996-2006) in a comprehensive psychosocial program supported by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), I am thoughtful even more on this day about them and both their suffering and strength of facing such adversity. Nepal government has been trying to address the issues of families of missing in conflict through the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) while there has been little efforts made in search for missing migrants and helping their families. ICRC and Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) jointly have been trying to help such families through its tracing and restoring family links (RFL) activities. It is hard to estimate the number of missing migrants because little records are available.

In recent years, one of the major attempts to help Nepali migrants has been Safer Migration Project (SaMi), a bilateral initiative of the Governments of Nepal and Switzerland. HELVETAS Nepal and the Ministry of Labour and Employment are implementing the project at the district level in over 19 districts through local NGOs and government agencies. SaMi aims to promote safer and beneficial migration by helping migrants to be informed, skilled and safer in context of foreign employment. My interaction with colleagues and local people recently in Saptari and Dhading have indicated that SaMi project could produce some estimate of missing migrants that have been reported by the families in the Information and counseling centers (ICC).

Ms. Sanu Maya Aryal is a psychosocial counselor working in Chandrajyoti Integrated Development Society (CIDS) for Safer Migration (SaMi) project supported by Helvatas. She highlights the phenomenon of missing cases among migrant workers in Dhading district. In the last two years, they have helped over 411 migrants/their families in a comprehensive manner for safer migration. Out of 411, they have recorded 60 cases of still missing migrants and 14 cases have been solved which were initially recorded as missing.  The families are completely unaware of whereabouts of their loved ones who have gone for foreign employment. She herself is familiar with an agony of having a missing family member as her father had disappeared during an armed conflict.

Ms. Aryal says, “Definitely this issue of missing migrants has not received an adequate attention on the national level, I can say there are many unreported cases of missing migrants. I have been to places in Dhading where people do not speak Nepali, are illiterate and so poor (lack resources) that they cannot report the case of disappearance to the authorities or NGOs. One of the major challenges while coming across such cases is lack of proper documents with the family. They show us the photograph of a person which is like 7-8 years old and creates difficult for identification of the person.”

She recalls, “ It is a very challenging task to search for missing migrants. And sometimes, even when the person is helped to reestablish family relations, an unfortunate event can take place. It is not a happy ending. There was one case in which a female migrant had lost contact with family for over 5 years. The family reported her as missing and after much efforts, she was rescued back to Nepal. She had suffered as housemaid and had been traumatized. Upon her return, she was further traumatized when she came to know that her husband had remarried and she had little means to support her two children. She ultimately committed suicide.”

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Migration is one of the major national issues with migrant population contributing to over one third of national GDP through remittance. Nepal is one of the countries with highly remittance-dependent economy in the world. It has been major force in improving economic conditions of majority of Nepali despite decades of political instability and pace of extremely slow development. It is important to note that it brought about many significant economic and social changes. The government of Nepal, concerned departments and related agencies should pay proper attention to migrants in general and also to the issue of missing migrants and their families.


Expressing solidarity with families of missing persons (in conflict and migration) on International Day of the Disappeared.

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4 years 4 months


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Finally, after 4 years 4 months, the time has come for me to close this circle and move on for the new one. I am very content to have my work successfully completed and I am looking forward for my new mission from next month.

Even before I joined ICRC, I was aware about the issue of disappearance in Nepal and the psychosocial aspects related to the families of the missing. In 2009, I had worked in a research project related to Missing persons and their families in Surkhet and I wrote about it on the occasion of Day of the Disappeared in 2010.

In 2012, when I joined ICRC, the pilot phase was coming to closure, and the first and second expansions were already rolling on. I worked for the first expansion districts covering three districts of Kathmandu Valley.

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At the same time, we were also preparing for the launch of third expansion in 10 districts, I was engaged in assessment and the implementation of program in Dhading and Nuwakot in partnership with Nepal Red Cross Society district chapters.

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In 2014, we finally rolled out the final/fourth expansion of the program, I was managing the program in Kavre, Sindhupalchwok and Ramechhap. I wrote about my experience after two years here.

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After earthquakes in 2015, our team were engaged for psychological first aid response in affected districts both by training Red Cross Volunteers as well as providing services in the community.

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In 2015, I was supported for my participation in 11th Mental Health in Complex Emergencies (MHCE) course, organized by Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA), Fordham University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Thanks to ICRC for that support.

Finally, this year, we have completed the program successfully and produced the dissemination materials. And at the last moment, we also had an opportunity to provide an brief orientation on psychosocial support for the staff of Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons of Nepal and we are hopeful they will consider the importance of psychosocial aspects while helping the families of the missing in their future work.

I would like to dedicate this photo book to my ICRC colleagues and working team (NRCS district focal persons, accompaniers, and program supervisors): ICRC-photo-memoirs.compressed and also would like to thank them all for their support and cooperation.

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Mental Health in Complex Emergencies 2015 Course


Some months ago, I  participated in 11th Mental Health in Complex Emergencies (MHCE) course, organized by Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA), Fordham University in collaboration with HealthNetTPO, UNHCR, and International Medical Corps at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia held from 20th to 30th September. 25 professionals from various countries representing/working in different international humanitarian organizations participated in the course. Me and one of my colleagues working in the psychosocial support program (Hateymalo) for the families of missing in Nepal was supported by ICRC to attend this course, thanks to my institution.

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About the course

The course was directed by Larry Hollingworth, C.B.E., Humanitarian Programs Director, Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation (CIHC); Lynne Jones, O.B.E. FRCPsych., Ph.D., Visiting scientist, FXB Center for Health & Human Rights, Harvard University; and Peter Ventevogel, M.D. Senior Mental Health Officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

On the first week for Module 1, Larry Hollingworth, Peter Ventevogel, Lynne Jones, Catherine Evans and Inka Weissbecker facilitated various sessions covering the most essential topics on mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in complex emergencies.

In the second week for Module 2, there were additional instructors such as Judith Bass and Charlotte Hanlon for topic on Conducting MHPSS Research in humanitarian settings, Lena Verdeli for topic on Group Interpersonal Therapy for humanitarian settings and Professor Atalay Alem for special guest lecture on Mental Health in Ethiopia.

Personal Reflection of Practitioners

I would like to share some short video clips of personal experiences and reflection shared by field practitioners about implementing MHPSS programmes in complex emergencies. Thanks to Kasey Cruz for helping to record my presentation, rest of the videos were recorded by myself. Thanks to Bishnu for the picture and Caitlin for writing her experience of the course.

 

Sujen Man Maharjan from ICRC, Nepal

Tadu Bezu from IMC, Ethiopia

Mahmuda from UNHCR, Bangladesh

Abdulwasi Yusuf from IMC, Ethiopia

Alaa’Alddin Al’masri and Awwad Manar from IMC, Jordan

Boniface Duku from HealthNet TPO, South Sudan

Caitlin Cockcroft from UK working in HealthNet TPO, South Sudan.

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 Being able to work with community resources, current resiliency and encouraging individuals to utilise their support networks already in place – this is something that will be the focus of all my work in future. We spend too much of our time focusing on people’s weaknesses, the problems and challenges they face, and how we can parachute in, provide and leave. I like that the conversation is changing especially with regards to mental health. We can’t be the savior who comes and treats and leaves. Much of the work can be done at the ground level, within the community. We can prevent mental health issues from developing or worsening by ensuring that people have, and use, their community support systems.

To read the complete text, please click here: IMC – MHCE- Caitlinwrites