90,000 not eligible for free visa, ticket

- Roshan Sedhai, Kathmandu
90,000 not eligible for free visa, ticket

Jul 26, 2015-

The government has agreed to allow recruiting agencies to charge a maximum of Rs70,000 from workers who applied for job quotas endorsed before July 8. The move officially denies free-visa-free-ticket benefit to over 90,000 Nepali migrants going to six countries of the Gulf and Malaysia.

Recruiting agencies across the country resumed their services on Sunday, three weeks after they launched an indefinite strike, after the government on Saturday agreed to address most of the 31-point demands of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (Nafea). An estimated 30,000 migrants from across the country were hit by the strike.

As per the agreement, the free-visa-free-ticket rule will not apply to migrants who took pre-work approval before the low-cost recruitment system came into effect. However, migrant workers taking final work approval or work permit after July 8 will benefit from the provision.

The Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) had issued pre-work approvals to 92,000 workers going to Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman through institutional channels.

Pre-work approval is permission granted to the recruitment agencies to forward the hiring process on the basis of the labour demand. Final approval or the permit is issued at the end of the recruitment process after verifying that the concerned migrant is getting work, wage and other benefits as promised in the demand letter submitted earlier.

“The recruiting agencies will be able to send these workers within two years of pre-approval. Final approval will be based on the pre-approval,” said Nafea Chairman Bimal Dhakal.

Though the government side refused to roll back the free-visa-ticket provision, it has agreed to form a panel of government officials and Nafea representatives to study the implementation of the new rule. The panel, which will visit all the seven countries to study the reactions of the host governments and employers, is expected to submit a report within three months.

“Despite the agreement to review the panel’s report, it’s unlikely that there will be any change as they [recruiting agencies] also know that most labour receiving countries want it,” said a senior official at the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

The government has also agreed to form a panel to probe the legality of various agents of the Malaysian government in Nepal. The Malaysian Embassy in Kathmandu has outsourced visa processing to VLN Nepal, raising the fee from Rs700 to Rs3,900. IT firm Bestinet Sdn Bhd also started biometric health screening from July 15 through 39 medical centres in Nepal.

It is unclear how much the new system will cost workers. Malaysia is also preparing to introduce a new agent for pre-departure orientation. Recruiting firms said there has been an agreement to ask Malaysia to ban all the agents in operation except Bestinet Sdn Bhd. “It’s pure exploitation. Free visa, free ticket doesn’t make sense unless the agents are banned,” said Bal Bahadur Tamang, former Nafea chairman.

The new system is expected to end the middlemen culture and to control workers’ exploitation by recruiting agencies. Migrants will now have to pay only for health check-up, pre-departure orientation and to the migrant workers’ welfare fund. They may have to pay an additional Rs10,000 in service charge if the employer is not paying the commission.

Published: 27-07-2015 08:04

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