Mirage for migrant workersThe government must implement the free visa and free ticket policy.
Almost six years after the free visa and free ticket policy came into being, Nepalis seeking employment abroad, especially in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia, are still compelled to pay hefty fees for recruitment. This, even after the Supreme Court in 2019 ordered government bodies to enforce the free visa and free ticket policy. As the latest report by FairSquare Projects, a London-based non-profit human rights organisation that focuses on the rights of migrant workers, has rightly said, Nepal should do away with the recruitment fees being charged to migrants so as to prevent their exploitation.
The FairSquare report has said that Nepali recruits for work in Kuwait and Qatar are paying hefty amounts for the recruitment process. As the Post has reported earlier, workers often have to pay as much as Rs160,000 for costs related to airfare, insurance and medical tests, far exceeding the Rs10,000 cap placed by the government. The sheer number of workers travelling to such countries for employment—70,000 in Kuwait and around 365,000 in Qatar—speaks volumes about the amount of money being spent by Nepali migrants collectively.
The situation is no different when it comes to Nepali workers seeking employment in Israel. The total cost for workers heading to Israel after paying for airfare, medical tests, insurance and contribution to the Foreign Employee Welfare Fund is as high as Rs100,000. Left with little option, the hopefuls are torn between taking loans to take up the offer or letting go of the opportunity at hand altogether. It also goes against the recent labour agreements that make employers bear the recruitment fees, airfare and miscellaneous costs.
Making workers pay hefty amounts for recruitment is an injustice to them, as it takes them months to earn back the money. More importantly, they have to seek high-interest loans before going for recruitment as a significant number of them come from poor families. If the idea of sending labour migrants to foreign destinations is to help them earn money, then the first step should be to make the process cheaper right at the start.
The government is responsible for ensuring that workers have access to zero-cost recruitment opportunities. In fact, the government has a policy of seeking zero-cost jobs for Nepali migrant workers as well as implementing the Employers Pay Model. But a policy on paper means little unless it is brought into practice. The general principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment produced by the International Labour Organisation, clearly state, "No recruitment fees or related costs should be charged to, or otherwise borne by, workers or jobseekers."
Although the principles are non-binding, the government should adhere to the best principles and practices globally so as to secure the rights of the citizens who are seeking employment in foreign labour markets. The government must begin work immediately to implement the free visa and free ticket policy effectively. It can no longer get away with overlooking the problems faced by Nepalis seeking employment abroad while it continues to give a free hand to agencies that are fleecing them.