Malaysia job aspirants are lining up for pre-departure services without pre-work approvalOnly 5,000 preliminary labour permits have been approved but more than 100,000 workers have already paid for medical tests and obtained security clearance, officials say.
Migration of Nepali workers to Malaysia, which resumed in September after a gap of several months, is staring at headwinds, with an increasing number of local workers lining up for pre-departure services without getting the preliminary labour permits from the government.
According to the Department of Foreign Employment, more than 100,000 Malaysia-bound Nepali workers have already completed their medical tests, commonly known as Biometric and Immigration Security Clearance, but the number of workers who have got the preliminary work approval is only about 5,000.
“We have received information from various sources that tens of thousands of Nepali migrant workers have lined up for their medical examination and security clearance services,” Bhisma Kumar Bhushal, director-general of the department, told the Post. “Our estimate shows that over 100,000 have already paid and completed these processes, but that should not be the case.”
As per standard procedure, aspiring migrant workers apply for these pre-departure services only after getting pre-work approval documents. Pre-work approval broadly refers to the process of accreditation of job demand letters, which is obtained by recruiting agencies for hiring Nepali workers from the department.
Once the labour demand letter is approved by the department, the recruiting agencies conduct interviews of aspirant migrant workers for selecting candidates. Only after their selection do they move ahead with medical examinations and other requirements. The ongoing practice has not only violated existing procedures, but has also left migrant workers at the risk of being cheated.
“These workers should be first selected in the preliminary round before they go on to pay for these services. In some cases, recruiting agencies have not even applied for the jobs of these workers,” said Bhushal. “What if these poor workers never get jobs, even after paying for these services? They will only lose their money.”
Workers aspiring to work in Malaysia have to pay Rs4,500 for a biometric medical test and Rs3,200 for Immigration Security Clearance (ISC), which is provided by GSG Services Nepal. A worker also has to shell out money to pay other fees before landing in Malaysia.
As the department is not mandated to keep a watch over the activities of pre-departure services-providing agencies, it has written to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security to issue a directive so as to stop providing medical and ISC reports to migrant workers who have not been selected through the regular process, according to Bhushal.
The department has also asked the recruiting agencies to forward the names of only those workers who have been selected through the regular hiring procedure and the letter that confirms their selection for the job.
Nepali migrant workers started departing for Malaysia after a 16-month suspension which had been imposed by Nepal because Malaysia had been imposing exorbitantly high fees on Nepali workers by various entities outsourced by the Malaysian government. But, despite the long gap, labour migrations to Malaysia have remained sluggish.
Following the long impasse, both countries signed a labour agreement in October 2018, under which the Malaysian government not only promised free jobs for Nepali workers but also said that henceforth, the various fees would be borne by the Malaysian employers.
According to Suresh Joshi, director with the Foreign Employment Office, Tahachal, the body that issues the final labour permits to aspirant migrant workers, only 4,000-5,000 pre-permissions have been approved by the department.
“Recruitment agencies were claiming that tens of thousands of workers are waiting in anticipation of getting jobs in Malaysia and were held back because of the suspension,” said Joshi. “Now, after the government has allowed labour migrations to Malaysia in the last one and a half months, that doesn’t quite appear to be the case.”