Recruiting agencies charging up to Rs500,000 for security guard jobs once again exposes exploitation of workersDespite labour pacts with various labour countries for zero cost jobs, not much has changed on the ground.
In October, a job vacancy popped up on the social media timeline of Pasang Norbu Sherpa. A well-paying job in a reputed security company in the United Arab Emirates caught his attention. Following months of the hiring process, Sherpa, originally from Bhojpur, made it through the interview and was finally selected for the job.
In return, RB Overseas Pvt Ltd, a Gongabu-based recruiting agency, demanded Rs500,000 for the security guard job. The agency threatened that if Sherpa did not pay the amount, the company would not submit his documents for the labour permit.
Sherpa, however, had agreed to pay a maximum Rs50,000 for the job in the UAE, the Arab-Gulf country which has pledged free jobs for Nepali workers in its labour agreement with Nepal.
Helpless and unable to pay the amount, Pasang finally approached the Department of Foreign Employment and filed a complaint against the recruiting agency. Following his complaint, a department team on Tuesday raided the agency and seized his passport with visa stamped.
“For a long time, we had been hearing that Nepali workers are paying a huge amount for security guard jobs. They are paying up to Rs500,000 for such jobs,” said Bhisma Kumar Bhusal, director general at the foreign employment department. “We could not take any action as we had not received any complaints directly from the victims. Dubai Police and other security guards companies provide free visas and free tickets.”
Duping of migrant workers like Sherpa has continued even though the government, for years, has been trying to enforce the free visa and free ticket policy. Despite increased monitoring of such agencies and employers bearing the cost and various fees on behalf of the workers, recruiting agencies have continued to force the workers to pay hefty amounts.
“The tendency to cheat workers is fuelled by aspirations of making quick money,” said Bhusal. “Unhealthy competition for seizing the workers’ demand by hiring agents in the host countries means recruiting agencies spend a huge sum. They want to cover these expenses from migrant workers.”
Nepal has signed labour agreements and reviewed existing agreements with major host countries. All of these pacts have stressed on zero cost jobs for Nepali workers. But the provisions have remained far from implemented, as there are still incidents of workers paying hefty amounts to recruiting agents and agencies.
Almost every week, there are raids in which recruiting agencies are caught red-handed charging huge amounts from migrant workers.
According to Som Prasad Lamichhane, director of the Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee, an organisation working for the rights of Nepali migrant workers, occasional raids by the government agencies are not enough to discourage such fraudulent cases.
“The problem is in the system,” Lamichhane told the Post. “Sometimes even if the worker has filed the complaint, the department doesn’t act immediately. The worker has to wait for months.”
According to Lamichhane, government agencies have to take swift and strict action, such as shutting down such agencies, to send out a strong message that cheating workers would not be tolerated.
“There is no deterrent for the recruiting agencies. Recruiting agencies are charging above the ceiling, but not much has been done,” said Lamichhane.
The department has beefed up monitoring of recruiting agencies in recent times. However, the cheating of migrant workers has continued unabated. The department now considers reviewing its working style and approaching employers in the host nations to inform them how workers are being exploited during the hiring process in the source country.
“The practice of reaching out to the employers in the host countries has not been in exercise so far. For eliminating such malpractices during the hiring process, we are thinking of contacting employers as well,” said Bhusal.
Protection of migrant workers from possible exploitation and discrimination is the responsibility of both the source and the destination countries. The role and responsibilities of both countries are clearly outlined in labour understandings.
Lamichhane said that the employers in the host countries should also ask the workers about the hurdles they face during the hiring process and act accordingly.
“Both source and host countries have to activate available mechanisms to stop such exploitations,” said Lamichhane. “But it seems the commitment is only at the political level while signing these deals. In practice, no one cares. Every stakeholder in host and source countries should be accountable for ethical recruitment practices.”