‘Enforce free-visa, free-ticket scheme’

  • Migrant workers continue to pay hefty sum despite policy being implemented years ago
- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu
The Supreme Court has issued a directive to the government to effectively implement the scheme to reprieve workers from massive financial burden

Jan 4, 2019-The Supreme Court has issued a directive to the government to effectively implement its ‘free-visa, free-ticket’ scheme. The scheme, implemented more than three years ago, is still poorly enforced.

A division bench of Justices Purushottam Bhandari and Kedar Prasad Chalise on Monday issued a directive to the government to take necessary measures for the effectively implementation of the policy in order to reprieve migrant workers from the massive financial burden they undergo while pursuing foreign jobs.

In June 2015, the government had decided that no Nepali migrant worker leaving the country for foreign employment would pay more than Rs20,000 in the hiring process. The total cost would include the processing and service fees of recruiting agencies. The government had also decided that the employer would be responsible for visa fees and airfare.

The Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice and Asian Human Rights and Culture Development Forum had jointly registered a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on August 27, 2017, demanding an order to enact and implement the law to ensure an effective implementation of the scheme.

“The policy has barely been implemented in reality. The government too accepts that the implementation has been very weak,” said advocate Barun Ghimire, programme manager at the Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice and one of the lawyer who argued against the government.

Despite the government making the tall aim of implementing the policy, various studies show that migrant workers continue to experience exploitation during the hiring phase. Migrant workers are paying more money than the government-set price to bag jobs in Malaysia and Gulf countries, as a result of a weak monitoring mechanism.

 An Amnesty International study, which was carried out in Nepal and Malaysia in 2017, shows that nearly two-thirds of Nepali migrant workers were paying excessive, illegal recruitment fees.  

An 88 per cent of respondents to Amnesty’s phone survey of 414 Nepali migrant workers had said that they had paid fees to sub-agents for getting jobs.

A similar study, conducted by Asian Human Rights and Culture Development Forum in 2016, with 188 migrant workers at the Tribhuvan International Airport and later with their families, also found that only a nominal number of Nepali workers could avail of the government policy and get jobs within the prescribed fees.

“The free visa and free ticket policy is limited only to paper, while vulnerable migrant workers are being exploited every day. The government should make some policy change if it wants to implement this strictly,” added Ghimire, who, along with a team of lawyers including former Attorney General Hari Phuyal, advocate Ramesh Badal, and Advocate Anurag Devkota, argued before the Supreme Court during the final hearing of this case.

Published: 04-01-2019 07:50

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