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Between 2008 and 2015 the annual number of Nepalis migrating away from home has more than doubled from 220,000 to 500,000. A large reason for this increase is demand from the Gulf states where Nepali migrant workers are known to be hardworking and most importantly- cheap. In the wake of this demand manpower agencies in Nepal are flourishing- connecting labourers with unskilled, low paid jobs and the ‘opportunity’ to explore a new country.

The agency arranges 1-2 days of interviews where approximately 300 Nepali men will attend, some traveling up to 20 hours from remote villages in the far west of Nepal to Kathmandu just for the interview. These men are ‘The Candidates’.

They will join the ranks of 2.8 million Nepalis working abroad who send home in earnings a total of 6 billion USD per year- or 30% of Nepal’s GDP. Unfortunately for some of these migrant workers the picture painted of higher salaries, experience in a new culture and good work conditions does not materialize. Many are paid less than what they are promised. There have been reports of workers having their passports confiscated. If they break their contracts (which are often 2-3 years long) they have to pay their employer up to 200,000 nepali rupees, an astronomical sum for a Nepali migrant worker.

‘Lucky Overseas’ an agency based in one of Kathmandu’s more affluent neighbourhoods held interviews with almost 300 candidates over the weekend of the 19th November 2016. The interviews are nerve-wracking. On the line for these men is not only a job opportunity but the chance to create a better life for their family- and themselves.

 
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"Nepalese have been welcomed by the Saudi people very much due to their dedication to work, loyalty, sincerity and integrity" says the website of the Nepalese embassy in Saudi Arabia

 
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Some interviews only take 5 seconds, and the Candidate is rejected right away. Sometimes caused by scars or rashes on their hands. Hygiene laws in Saudi Arabia are strict, and a rash would not be acceptable.

 
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"I am a self confident person having positive attitude and patience"
A quote from the english classes the candidates receive.

 
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Candidate being interviewed for a position as a waiter for a Saudi Arabian Shawarma restaurant-franchise.
The Shawarma-franchise are planning to have 100 restaurants by the end of 2017. Currently, they have 57.

 
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The salary is 1100 riadh per month, which translates to just under $300 - almost 3 times the wage that can be earned as a waiter in Nepal.

 
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In some cases the trip to Kathmandu for the interview are these young men's first exposure to an urban environment. If selected, the culture shock between a rural village in Nepal and a developed city like Riyadh can be difficult to recover from. Some men develop a depression, in some cases leading to suicide.

 
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The Candidates are encouraged to "dress formally".

 
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"It's 80% work, eat and sleep. It's not fun, save your money, there's no ladies and no alcohol."
- A 'pep talk' from a representative from the Shawarma franchise

 
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Candidate being interviewed for a position as a "Mechanical Helper" in Saudi Arabia.

The contracts for this position are for a minimum of 3 years. Should the candidate wish to leave earlier he owes the company a fee equal to roughly 6 months salary.

 
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Each day four coffins arrive with bodies of workers who died abroad. Many of these die of "sleeping disease" - a cardiac arrest that happens during sleep due to the rough working conditions.