Nepalese Migration and Labour Exploitation in Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal - 7 February 2019 - On 12 October 2018, Joana Wrabetz, GLO.ACT's Policy Advisor participated in an International Seminar titled  "Migration and Labour Exploitation of the Nepalese in agriculture in Portugal" at the invitation of UNIAUDAX - Entrepreneurship Center of the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL). The seminar was part of a project titled " Immigration and Labor Exploitation, Nepalese in agriculture in Portugal", funded by the Fund Asylum, Migration and Integration (FAMI), of the European Commission.

This project has two main objectives: first, to develop and conduct field research to collect primary data; second, to contribute to prevent and fight against labour exploitation of Nepalese citizens in Portuguese farms. 

The research conducts in-depth analyzes of Nepalese workers profiles related to their migratory experiences from Nepal to Portuguese redberry farms, and addresses the workers' motivations and expectations, decision-making processes and typical strategies used in their families, co-ethnic and co-national networks and the related phenomena of forced labor in Portugal.

The project aims to target smuggling and trafficking networks more effectively, by proposing coordinated measures involving multiple partners in the destination country (Portugal), including proposals for new public policies.

GLO.ACT Nepal, has been engaged in different field studies as the Multi Country Study on Migrants on the Move - Vulnerabilities, associated risks and the Importance of International Cooperation and Collaboration among countries of origin and Transit, focusing on Smuggling of Migrants from Nepal (as a source country) via South Africa, Brazil and Colombia (the latest two as transit countries), as recommended by the needs and gaps assessment conducted by UNODC within the framework of GLO.ACT.

The Seminar "Immigration and Labor Exploitation, Nepalese in agriculture in Portugal",  brought together experts from Academia (University Institute of Lisbon/ISCTE, Ohio State University, Nova University/ Lisbon), Diplomacy (Nepalese Consulate in Portugal), Civil Society (2 NGOs, one of Nepalese Migrant Residents in Portugal and one Portuguese NGO providing legal support to migrants), Government (Portuguese Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings) and among the participants were Masters' students representing several different countries.

Of particular interest to GLO.ACT was the development of synergies between the two studies, especially taking in consideration that Portugal is one of the entry points of Nepalese migrants in the European Union, an aspect not addressed by the UNODC study, that mainly focusing on South Africa and South America.

Both studies are focusing not only on the Nepalese migratory experiences but also on the relevant Nepali laws, policies and strategies addressing the illicit activities enabling SOM from Nepal, and the national institutional arrangements and practices, including weaknesses in the bureaucratic/administrative structures, to prevent and combat SOM and protect its victims.

One of the main findings of the study conducted in Portugal so far is that labor exploitation and smuggling became normalized and accepted by Nepalese migrants who attempted to travel to Europe. This is compounded by the reality of strong border enforcement and few legal means to enter and work in Portugal. One of the project recommendations, is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or bilateral agreement between the two countries in order to address smuggling of migrants and labor exploitation by recruitment enterprises.

The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) is a four-year (2015-2019), €11 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The project is being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). GLO.ACT aims to provide assistance to governmental authorities and civil society organizations across 13 strategically selected countries: Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine. GLO.ACT works with the 13 countries to plan and implement strategic national counter-trafficking and counter smuggling efforts through a prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships approach. It supports the development of more effective responses to trafficking and smuggling, including providing assistance to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and direct support mechanisms.


For more information, please contact:

Joana Wrabetz

UNODC Vienna:


Twitter:  @glo_act