Government starts issuing labour permits to migrant workers on job break and with renewed contractsExperts question the government’s decision as the threat of Covid-19 is still not over in labour destination countries.
After over three months of hiatus, the government has finally resumed issuance of labour permits to the migrant workers who could not go on foreign employment in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, on Thursday, decided to issue labour permits to the migrant workers who in the wake of the pandemic had been stuck in the country during their job break and those workers who had renewed their work contracts and visas.
According to Bhola Nath Guragain, the spokesperson with the Department of Foreign Employment, labour permits will be issued to only those migrant workers who wish to go back to their jobs.
“Distribution of re-entry labour permits have started from the Foreign Employment Office in Tahachal, Kathmandu, and other Labour and Employment Offices in all Provinces from today,” Guragain told the Post.
These workers will have to undergo Covid-19 screening and follow the standard health protocol to obtain their labour permits.
The government has still not made any decision on issuing labour permits to the first-time applicants of overseas employment.
In mid-March, when coronavirus cases started multiplying in labour destination countries, the government had stopped labour migration for an indefinite period. The department on March 13 stopped giving labour permits, a move that has affected thousands of aspirant migrant workers.
After the government relaxed the lockdown, the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) last week decided that Nepali citizens, including the migrant workers who are at home during job break would be allowed to go on foreign employment as per the recommendation of the Ministry of Labour.
However, the CCMC decision to resume labour migration has drawn criticism from several labour migration experts. According to them, allowing Nepali workers to migrate on foreign employment will only put them at risk because most of the labour hosting countries are still reeling under the pandemic.
According to Swarna Kumar Jha, a labour migration researcher, the government decision to allow Nepali migrant workers to go on foreign employment lacks both timeliness and logic.
“The government decision to resume labour migration clearly shows that they are not serious about its own decision. On the one hand, we are bringing back workers from several labour destination countries. And on the other, we are hurrying to send the workers to those same countries,” said Jha.
“The time is not right to start sending workers. Even if the government wanted to send workers, it could have begun with countries like South Korea and Japan where the pandemic is largely under control and the number of Nepali workers working and living is relatively smaller,” added Jha, who is also a coordinator with the National Network for Safe Migration.
The government is currently busy bringing home Nepali workers from various labour destination countries after they lost their jobs in the wake of the pandemic.
“We had been receiving calls from migrant workers asking us to resume labour migration. Workers on leave and those with good-paying jobs wanted to go back to their jobs,” said Guragain. “Following their demands, we took the proposal to the Labour Ministry, which made the decision to issue re-entry labour permits.”
Jha, however, said that the government’s decision to send workers abroad is merely an attempt at diverting the attention of returnee migrant workers and unemployed youths away from its failure to create jobs at home.“We are aware that host countries are sending Nepali workers, some of them with their own expenses. But now we are sending workers without even knowing whether the host countries are ready to accept our workers,” said Jha. “The government had promised massive jobs inside the country. But with youths returning from various countries in large numbers, the government has realised that it cannot provide jobs to these returnees. So, the government has announced to resume foreign employment as a ploy to divert their attention.”