Nepali missions abroad yet to verify demand for workersWithout the verification, recruiting agencies say thousands of workers have not been able to go despite the Cabinet decision to resume labour migration in August.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
Even though the government decided to allow Nepalis to migrate for foreign employment, which had been suspended due to the pandemic for months, Nepali missions abroad haven’t resumed services related to the aspiring, irking recruiting agencies.
While agencies say they have been unable to send workers abroad despite demand for thousands, officials say they haven’t had time to verify demand documents of new workers as they are occupied with repatriation of citizens affected by the pandemic.
“Labour demand verification is the first step towards securing employment opportunities for Nepali workers. But the door has remained closed for months,” said Sujit Kumar Shrestha, general secretary of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies.
As per a new directive, which was implemented in 2018, foreign employers who wish to hire Nepali workers have to first get workers’ demand documents verified by Nepali missions in the respective country. Only then when other processes of hiring workers begin in Nepal.
“What is even more surprising is that the Cabinet opened labour migration, but Nepali missions abroad have not abided by the decision and are still not verifying labour demand documents. We have been reaching out to all concerned authorities for the resumption of the service,” said Shrestha.
As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, the government had suspended labour migration in mid-March by stopping the issues of labour permits to outbound migrant workers. Subsequently, Nepali missions abroad also stopped approving demand letters submitted by local employers for hiring Nepali workers, although the Nepal government had not taken any such decision.
Even two months after the government decision to reopen the foreign employment sector at the end of August, the demand verification process has remained closed.
“The Cabinet decision of August 30 said that the government had fully opened the labour migration sector. Following the decision, the Department of Foreign Employment also started issuing pre-approvals and final labour permits,” said Shrestha. “However, Nepali missions have not started verification of the demand letters. Not a single demand has been approved in this period.”
Shrestha claimed that the uncertainty in demand document verification affected huge demands of Nepali workers, mainly for 70,000 in Saudi Arabia.
“We have been expressing our concerns to the Foreign Employment Department and Labour Ministry, as it is the line agency for labour migration matters,” said Shrestha.
The Department of Foreign Employment accepted that the workers’ demand verification process has remained affected for months.
According to Tikamani Neupane, spokesperson for the department, the reason behind the ongoing stoppage in attestation of demand documents is the pandemic-induced situation.
“Nepali missions have stopped approving demand letters citing the Covid-19 situation. They have said most of their time and resources are mobilised for repatriation of workers. Hence they could not resume the verification process,” said Neupane.
“Missions have said it is still not entirely safe for workers to travel to labour destination countries. Officials from these missions have been saying it will not be wise to send them for a while,” he said.
The department, however, says they have been continuously following up on the matter with Nepali missions to resume the verification process. In a bid to resolve the issue, the Labour Ministry, on Tuesday, wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking its intervention.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering its options, a senior foreign ministry official said asking not to be named as a decision is yet to be taken.
“Due to Covid situation, some countries have changed their protocols and increased restrictions on travel and we are consulting with our missions abroad on how to deal with the changes,” said the official. “So until further decision, the verification process of Nepali migrant workers has been suspended temporarily.”