Qatar kicks out Nepalese envoy amid worker deaths report

Maya Kumari Sharma sacked; said to help The Guardian reveal 44 Nepali worker deaths in Qatar summer heat
Window washers from Nepal return to ground after working on the curved facade of the Tornado Tower on October 23, 2011 in Doha, Qatar. (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)
By Courtney Trenwith
Thu 26 Sep 2013 03:46 PM

The Nepalese government has recalled its ambassador to Qatar following a request from the Gulf state after several controversial comments relating to Nepalese foreign workers.

Maya Kumari Sharma has come under fire from Qatari authorities since she described Qatar as “an open jail” during an interview on the BBC in March.

Her sacking on Wednesday coincided with a report in The Guardian newspaper that said 44 Nepalese labourers had died during the summer while working on Qatar developments.

The report only detailed the deaths and torture claims of Nepalese workers, who make up a portion of the total foreign labourers in the country, and referred to numerous pieces of information received from the Nepalese embassy in Qatar.

The report received widespread media coverage internationally and was another embarrassing story for a country often criticised for “slavery” of foreign workers.

The Qatari ambassador to Nepal demanded Sharma be recalled in a formal letter sent to Nepalese Foreign Minister Madhav Prasad Ghimire on Wednesday, Nepalese media reported.

The ambassador said Sharma’s “controversial activities and remarks” could affect the bilateral ties.

The decision to recall her was made by the Cabinet on Thursday.

The Qatari Foreign Affairs Ministry had previously sought a clarification of her comment describing Qatar as an open jail. She had clarified her remark and apologised.

Migrant supports have claimed that Nepal, which receives a significant boost to its economy through remittances from foreign workers, is unwilling to act on “mounting” evidence that its citizens are being mistreated overseas. 

In March, the International Labour Organisation said Nepalese officials “were complicit in the trafficking for forced labour of its migrant workers.”

However, not all migrants in Qatar support Sharma.

According to The Quartz magazine, when a Nepalese worker criticised the embassy’s lack of consular support for Nepali migrants in May, she asked Qatari authorities to have him deported, attracting criticism from international human rights groups.

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