15,000 migrants stranded due to row over medical fees

- Post Report, Kathmandu
Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies says workers have not been able to apply for visa for almost a month

Jan 11, 2017-A recent decision of the Gulf Approved Medical Centres Association to charge $10 from the Gulf-bound Nepali migrants before their medical check-ups has created a row, leaving thousands of workers preparing to go to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain stranded in Kathmandu.

GAMCA, an authorised agent of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which holds the exclusive rights to provide health services to migrant workers going to the three Gulf nations, made it mandatory for its medical affiliates in Nepal to deposit $10 in its bank account prior to conducting health examinations since January 1.

GAMCA Nepal, an amalgamation of the GAMCA-affiliated medical centres in Nepal, said it has not been able to deposit the required amount due to the red tape. 

The Nepal Rastra Bank, 

the regulatory body, has agreed to give permission to deposit the amount but has demanded recommendation from the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

The ministry, however, appears reluctant to issue the recommendation arguing that GAMCA had already been charging above the ceiling fixed by the government. Twelve medical centres accredited by the GAMCA currently charge Rs5,300, and charging extra would be more burdensome for the workers.

Under the medical fees revised last year by the Ministry of Health based on the recommendation of the Nepal Foreign Employment Medical Association, the 

government has set a ceiling on the fee the medical centre can charge from migrants for pre-departure medical examination. The ceiling set for male workers is Rs2,940 and RS3,100 for females.

Though the fee was supposed to apply to all medical centres, many firms are charging up to three times the rate due to the policy of the labour receiving governments.

Twelve Nepali medical centres affiliated to GAMCA say they have not been able to deposit the fee due to administrative hassles since the new rule came into effect.

It has directly affected the workers who were in the process of applying for visa. The Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies said they have not been able to apply for visa for almost a month now.

Some 15,000 workers, who were selected for jobs through interviews until December 25, are currently in Kathmandu, according to the NAFEA. Most of them are from outside the Valley.

“Thousands of workers have been unnecessarily forced to wait for days for medical tests. Some of them don’t have money for food and accommodation,” NAFEA Chair Bimal Dhakal told the Post.

The Department of Foreign Employment did not independently confirm the data. Rama Bhattarai, spokesperson for the department, said the ministry was working to sort the problem.

In a meeting with stakeholders including medical firms and recruiting agencies, Labour Secretary Laxman Prasad Mainali had agreed to write to the Nepal Rastra Bank.

“But we made it clear to them that they cannot charge migrants extra. They have agreed to deposit the amount from the same Rs5,300 fees,” said an official at the ministry.

Published: 11-01-2017 07:18

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