Govt in ambitious bid to safeguard workers

  • Nepali migrants in Malaysia
  • Two-pronged strategy: Improve workers’ conditions or stop sending them there
- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Govt in ambitious bid to safeguard workers

Apr 21, 2015-

Amid reports of Nepalis’ growing exploitation in Malaysia, the government plans to either improve the state of its workers in the South-east Asian country or stop sending them there at all.

Two alternatives that the government is weighing come on the heels of an understanding with Qatar for cost-free hiring of Nepalis by companies there. Earlier, the government reached an agreement with Bahrain to rid Nepalis of any cost while migrating to the Gulf state to work.

Nepal has decided to ask Malaysia to ensure the safety of Nepali workers there and make the recruitment process cost-free for them, warning of a halt in the departure of workers if it fails to address the grievances. The immediate focus is on curbing the economic exploitation of migrant workers in name of recruitment fees, visa processing and training.

Nepal plans to “temporarily” stop sending workers to Malaysia if its ongoing initiative to prevent their exploitation and abuse both at home and abroad fails to produce desired results within two months. Outbound workers are not only at risk at the hands of their employers in Malaysia but they are duped by the recruitment agents in Nepal too.

Government’s field reports have shown that Nepalis are facing several forms of abuse in Malaysia. Passports of most of the workers are confiscated and promised jobs, wages, leave and other benefits are denied. Many face police brutality in public places, detention centres, deportation centres and jails.

Labour Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have agreed to urge the Malaysian government to help begin a zero-cost migration process that would free migrants of having to pay to secure foreign jobs.

The ministries also plan to gradually form an inbuilt mechanism in collaboration with the Malaysian government to promote safety and security of the migrants.

Both the options, which were apparently floated without realisation of the ground reality, look next to impossible to implement immediately. Besides, the Malaysian government and the recruiting agencies in both the countries stand opposed to the idea. Stakeholders say numerous factors including the absence of labour agreement between Nepal and Malaysia, clear laws governing the sector and effective monitoring stand in the way of the government’s plan. Other hindrances in making the migration cost-free are agent-centric recruitment process, corrupt systems in both the countries and top officials having their stakes in foreign employment business.

“It’s easier said than done. Nothing will change unless top officials in both the countries show genuine interests to reform the sector,” said a source at the Ministry of Labour and Employment. “But that’s probably not happening as those at the decision-making level on both sides are looking for excuses to exploit workers.”

Malaysia has direct business interest in Nepal which is being fulfilled through two of its authorised agents. Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd, an agent of the Malaysian government, has got the visa processing job. Nepalis have to pay Rs3,900 for visa which is nearly five times what they had been paying until November, 2013. In January, Malaysia introduced another agent to provide mandatory pre-departure training for Nepali security guards. Teleport, an agent of the Malaysian government, charges RM600 (Rs 18,500 including tax) from each migrant. Though concerned ministries are preparing to urge Malaysia to cancel such provisions, it is unlikely to happen as these agents are said to have established connections with powerful people including former ministers.

State Minister for Labour Tek Bahadur Gurung, who owns a recruiting agency, hesitates to take a strong stance due to personal motives. One of the five agents that Teleport has chosen in Nepal belongs to one of Gurung’s relatives.

What looks even more difficult is to stop people from going to Malaysia, the largest destination for Nepali workers. An estimated 700,000 Nepalis currently work in Malaysia.

Published: 22-04-2015 08:59

User's Feedback

Click here for your comments

Comment via Facebook

Don't have facebook account? Use this form to comment