No approval unless migrants get free visa, ticket: Govt

- Roshan Sedhai, Kathmandu
No approval unless migrants get free visa, ticket: Govt

Jun 4, 2015-

The government is working to issue work approval to outbound migrant workers only if employers bear the cost for visa and air ticket.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) states that the provision will help prevent economic exploitation of outbound workers in the name of recruitment fee and establish cost-free migration culture in a long run.

State Minister for Labour Tek Bahadur Gurung told the Post that the provision will come into effect within few weeks. “It is taking several months to even years for workers to earn the money they pay to go abroad. Stopping them from going abroad is the only solution to this pestilential exploitation and abuse of migrant workers,” he said.

Stakeholders, however, say the new policy—which is being introduced without developing a mechanism whether the employer is sponsoring the visa and ticket--could restrict hundreds of workers from going abroad for employment. Currently, over 80 percent of Nepali migrant workers pay recruitment fee to local agencies even in cases when employers themselves are bearing the cost. Minister Gurung and other senior officials could not tell how they will ascertain that workers are not paying anything as there is no mechanism to oversee the financial transaction between the recruiting agencies and workers. Economic exploitation is a huge problem facing around half a million Nepali migrant workers who join overseas jobs every year. They are forced to pay twice or thrice higher fee to recruiting agencies than what is set by the government as the maximum charge.

Workers leaving for some countries such as Qatar and Bahrain are forced to pay charges even when the receiving countries are providing visa and ticket. Likewise, most employers in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates too bear the cost of visa and ticket but it is said that the system is being misused in Nepal to exploit workers. Recruiting agencies say they are charging higher fee to workers as they have to pay agents in Nepal for sending foreign job aspirants as well as those in the destination countries for providing job demands. The commission amount for agents abroad is often paid through informal channels such as hundi.

Foreign employment experts and non-governmental stakeholders say the planned provision could prevent majority of workers from going aboard. They argued that the impact of solution could be disastrous. “It is a design to displace smaller recruiting agencies from the foreign employment business. It is not a good idea to restrict the mobility of workers,” said Kumud Khanal, vice chairman of Nepal Foreign Employment Agencies Association.

MoLE officials said other ministries, including Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are positive about the “regulated outflow” of workers given there is a necessity of huge workforce to carry out reconstruction and rebuilding in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake.

Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said discussions are under way to retain workforce for the reconstruction and development work within the country. He said the government should formulate a policy with lucrative pay offer and facilities to lure workers to work inside the country. “We should take this reconstruction and rebuilding work as an opportunity to promote internal job and discourage overseas employment. I don’t think workers will opt for foreign jobs if we pay them better here,” Pandey said.

Labour scarcity has been a huge problem in Nepal in the recent years as youths are attracted towards job opportunities abroad. Around 3.5 million Nepalis are believed to be working in various labour destinations in the Gulf and Malaysia.

Experts say no system will stop migrant from going aboard for job unless the government formulates plans beyond the rebuilding of the damaged structure to retain its workforce. They argued the problem will continue unless the government acts tough against the corruption prevalent in the system.

“The new provision will force more and more desperate people to go abroad through informal channel,” said Ganesh Gurung, a foreign employment expert.

Published: 05-06-2015 08:15

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