‘Weak regulation fuel fraud cases’Hundreds of prospective Nepali migrant workers continue to be the victims to foreign employment fraud, which has raised serious doubt on the government’s commitment
Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) has registered 1,953 fraud cases worth Rs 526 million in the eight moths of fiscal year 2014/15. The figure represents just the reported cases and does not include thousands of people who pay exorbitant fees to go to work in Gulf countries and Malaysia, among others.
DoFE statistics shows 605 of these cases were filed against individual and brokers, while the remaining cases were filed against foreign employment agencies. Most of the victims were promised jobs with handsome pay in various countries in Asia, Europe and America, according to DoFE officials.
Several other victims include returnee migrant workers who did not get work, wage and benefits as promised. Most of the workers were given two contract letters. There is a huge disparity in the kind of job, wage and other benefits in these two contracts.
Though the number of complaints against the recruiting agencies is high, it is the individual agents who defrauded the highest amount of money from innocent clients.
Individual agents and brokers swindled around Rs 362 million from the workers while the recruiting agencies pocketed Rs 163 million, according to the record.
Experts say rise in fraud cases across the country is a result of the government’s failure to come up with a stringent law in the foreign employment sector. Other factors like lack of enforcement of existing laws, ineffective monitoring and absence of state at the grassroots level have also promoted such malpractices.
One DoFE official said that fraud cases will continue to rise unless the government comes up with a harsh punishment. He claimed that top officials themselves protect the recruiting agencies and agents involved in fraud cases.
“How will fraud cases stop when those sitting at the top take it as minor offence? When a recruiting agency is found involved in fraudulent activities, top officials are in a hurry to protect them, instead of offering justice to the victims.” Very few recruiting agencies in the country have faced criminal charge for conning people.
Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (Nafea) say stakeholders have been often directing the blame to recruiting agencies without investigating the truth.
Kumud Khanal, former Nafea vice-chairman, said the government has been taking a wrong approach to tackle fraud cases in foreign employment sector. “There are enough loopholes in laws to encourage fraud. It cannot be solved unless those loopholes are mended,” he said.
Some stakeholders see the rise in fraud cases differently. They say it is not the fraud cases that is increasing, but the people reporting the cases.
Som Luitel, chairman of the People’s Forum, an organisation that offer legal assistance to the victims of foreign employment fraud, say there has been significant rise in the number of victims recording complaints.
“The access to justice in foreign employment related crime is much better than other criminal offence. Though people used to take such cases for granted earlier, they are reporting the cases in recent times. Increasing awareness among people and better access to justice have motivated many victims to seek legal redress,” said Luitel.
DoFE has found many education consultancies, marriage bureaus, travel agents, hotels, government officials and public figures involved in fraud cases.
DoFE Director Bhesh Bahadur Karki said while the foreign employment fraud has taken different forms over the years, the government approach remain the same.
According to Karki, many other sectors that are not under their jurisdiction are involved in foreign employment business under various disguises. “It is increasingly becoming difficult to combat the cases of fraud in foreign employment sector due to overlapping laws and weak polices. There is a need of major reform in both law and its effective implementation,” said Karki.