National

‘Free visa free ticket’ scheme a dud: Panel

- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu
House committee report says provision was never implemented, hence none of the migrant workers benefited in the last two years

Aug 10, 2017-The highly ambitious government scheme of “free visa free ticket” introduced in  for migrant workers has been a complete failure, a House panel report has concluded. 

The government had announced the scheme in June 2015 with an aim to facilitate migrant workers leaving the country in search of jobs.

But a study report prepared by a sub-committee of the parliamentary International Relations and Labour Committee says none of the migrant workers in the last two years benefited from the “free visa free ticket” scheme. 

The report was submitted to the House panel on Tuesday.

House committee Chairman JB Tuhure said the state had completely failed to implement the provision.

“This never proved to be more than a popular slogan,” said Tuhure. “However, migrant workers can benefit from the scheme only if it is strictly implemented. So far, it has been limited to papers only.”

The committee will soon start discussion on strict implementation of the scheme, he added.  

The report was prepared after conducting a field study in four Gulf countries by a team of lawmakers from the sub-committee headed by then House panel chairman Prabhu Sah.

The lawmakers had visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE for 10 days from March 18 to take stock of the situation of Nepali migrant workers in those countries. 

The report says malpractices and cheating dominate the foreign employment sector. 

According to the report, migrant workers were found to have paid from Rs 50,000 to Rs 900,000 despite “free visa free ticket” provision in place. 

According to labour and migration expert Ganesh Gurung, nothing has changed for poor migrant workers even after the government introduced the scheme. 

“Situation has rather worsened for them. Earlier, they used to get the receipt of the amount they paid. Now, no matter how much amount they pay to recruiting agencies, they get the receipt of the minimal amount of Rs 10,000,” said Gurung. “However, the recruiting agencies have doubled their income.” 

During the study, the team came across hiring companies which had provided free tickets, free visa and service charges to recruiting agencies meant for workers. However, workers in even those companies were rather charged hefty amounts of money. 

Despite Al Marai Company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia—one of the most reputed companies in the region—offering jobs on minimum charge, Nepalis working for the company were found to be paying a hefty amount of money to recruiting agencies. 

Another company, Plant Tech Arabia in Jubail of Saudi Arbia, had also offered free visa and free tickets to migrant workers. However, of 50 Nepali the team had met with during their visit, no one had paid less than Rs 50,000. 

Likewise, Nepalis working in Qatar had paid up to Rs 200,000 even after the scheme came into force. 

“The scheme can be implemented if the foreign employment sector is managed well. Those companies on the verge of closure and not able to pay salaries to workers will automatically run out of business,” said Gurung.

While poor Nepali migrant workers struggled on foreign soil and were forced to pay more, Nepali government bodies failed to perform their duties responsibly, the report said. “While recruiting agencies were least bothered about the plight of migrant workers once they were sent to destination countries, the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Department of Foreign Employment failed to hold these companies accountable, leading to a chaotic situation,” states the report. 

Published: 10-08-2017 07:58

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