Qatar visa centre comes into operation amid concerns that workers may have to pay extra feesSuch a centre could impose an additional financial burden on aspiring migrant workers and create another organised syndicate
The opening of Qatar Visa Centre in Kathmandu has left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security at odds.
When the centre was inaugurated last week, officials at the Labour Ministry were clueless about it. The ministry had not given its consent to open the centre, which has been set up by the Qatari government to facilitate Qatar-bound Nepali migrant workers.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had given permission for the operation of the centre. This is what I know,” Narayan Regmi, spokesperson for the Labour Ministry, told the Post.
During months-long negotiations with the Qatari side, the Labour Ministry had maintained a firm stance of not allowing the establishment of such facility, arguing that it would impose an additional financial burden on aspiring migrant workers and might create another organised syndicate.Foreign Ministry officials, however, said the permission to open the centre was issued after consultation with the Labour Ministry.
“The matter was discussed. The Foreign Ministry gave the permit at the recommendation of the Labour Ministry,” Suresh Adhikari, assistant spokesperson for Foreign Ministry said.Qatar had decided that it would be opening a visa centre in eight countries—India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Tunisia—in November 2017. Migrant workers from these countries account for 80 percent of Qatar’s total workforce.
The latest centre in Nepal is one of such 20 centres in these countries.When the Qatari government had proposed opening its visa centre in Nepal, the Labour Ministry had sought more details regarding the objectives of the facility and its operation plans.
“We were under discussion with the Qatari side about this matter. As the government agency working for workers’ rights and safety, our main concern is not to burden migrant workers with extra fees,” Regmi said. Nepal and Qatar have been under discussion for months to review the existing labour agreement that was signed in 2005. The two sides have already agreed to eliminate the exorbitant fees workers had been paying to recruiting agencies for visas, medical tests, and other bureaucratic paperworks. Qatar has also committed to offer zero cost jobs to Nepali workers.
The opening of the visa centre has worried the officials at the Labour Ministry, who fear that it would only add extra cost for Nepali migrant workers while applying for visas.
“Our concern is that opening of such a centre should have been part of the agreement that both countries are reviewing. Even if the centre has come into the operation, our stance is clear, that workers should not pay any fees since the government’s priority has been on securing zero cost jobs for aspirant migrant workers,” Regmi told the Post.
The Nepal government has stressed ‘zero cost’ jobs for Nepali workers with destination countries. Through recent agreements with Malaysia, Japan, the UAE, Oman and the ongoing review of existing labour pact with Qatar, Nepal has maintained that the employers should bear all the fees and costs of the workers going to the concerned countries for jobs.
The Foreign Ministry official assured that the Qatar-bound workers will not have to pay any fees for accessing services from the centre.
“The Foreign Ministry is equally aware of the government’s policy aimed at ensuring that workers do not have to go through such a financial burden for jobs abroad. We are concerned about that as well,” Adhikari said. “We can assure that no Nepali workers would be paying any fees at the centre, as the Qatari government has given us their commitment in writing mentioning no fee will be imposed on workers and they would be adhering to the laws of Nepal.”
According to Adhikari, the fees at centre will be paid by the employers in advance before the workers visit the centre on the scheduled date to access the services. The visa centre provides pre-departure facilities like biometrics registration, medical examinations, signing of contracts electronically through a unified channel, and verification of documents. The Qatari government has said that the centre would make the process hassle-free for both workers and tourists.The website of the Qatar Visa Centre also mentions that the Biometric Visa Fees of $137 will directly be paid by the Qatari employer to the Ministry of Interior, whereas accessing the facilities at its “lounge service” is optional and will require an additional Rs 3,865 per applicant per usage.