Nepali agencies suspect foul play in Qatar hirings through a syndicateNepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies says a few agencies have formed a syndicate to exclusively send workers to the Gulf country.
Back-to-back raids at three recruiting agencies, conducting interviews for security jobs in Qatar in suspicious circumstances, and the presence of a vehicle belonging to the Qatari Embassy in Kathmandu on the spot have once again signalled at a possible syndicate being formed for sending Nepali workers to the Gulf state.
For several weeks, recruiting agencies have been alleging that a group of recruiting agencies and the Qatari embassy are active in devising a syndicate which will be exclusively sending Nepali workers to Qatar.
The recent developments—recruiting agencies conducting interviews for sending workers to Qatar snubbing the official procedure, a Qatari government team visiting Nepal and the presence of an embassy vehicle on the premises of the raided agency—indicate an unethical activity going on while sending Nepali workers to Qatar, according to the representatives of recruiting agencies.
In a statement on Tuesday, Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), a grouping of 854 recruiting agencies, criticised the latest incidents of the few agencies trying to institute a syndicate by conducting interviews secretly and without following the due process.
The NAFEA, which has been protesting against a potential illicit nexus related to Qatar jobs, also demanded action against those involved in the formation of a syndicate and the flouting of the country’s laws.
On Monday, a team from the Department of Foreign Employment raided two Kathmandu-based recruiting agencies—SOS Manpower Services Pvt Ltd and DD Human Resources Pvt Ltd—and found that they were conducting interviews without even seeking prior permission from the authorities.
Hundreds of candidates had gathered for interviews for Qatari police jobs, but these agencies had not received the pre-approval from the department required for conducting interviews.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Employment department team, following a tip-off, reached Hope International, another recruiting agency, which was also found to be conducting interviews for job opportunities in Qatari Police. Hope International had also not taken the permission to conduct interviews.
A list of 17 recruiting agencies that are allegedly part of the syndicate for sending Nepali workers to Qatar has been floating around for some weeks. Three agencies, which were found to be conducting interviews on Monday and Tuesday, are also on the same list of the so called syndicate, raising suspicion among other recruiting agencies.
“Three agencies which have been raided are among the 17 recruiting agencies as well. Why were there no agencies conducting interviews for security guards in Qatar except those on the list?” Rohan Gurung, former president of NAFEA, told the Post.
“This clearly suggests there is something fishy about sending security guards to Qatar. If other agencies were also engaged in similar activities, we could say the possibility of the syndicate was merely a rumour.”
The Department of Foreign Employment had seized documents from all three agencies and asked their respective proprietors to appear at the Department within 24 hours.
“Although the agencies’ proprietors and candidates did not reveal much about the jobs, seized documents showed they were collecting applications and conducting interviews for jobs in Qatar Police. But they had not received pre-approval from the department,” Tikamani Neupane, a spokesperson for the Foreign Employment Department, told the Post. “Several hundred candidates had gathered at all three recruiting agencies. We are also investigating why the vehicle belonging to the Qatar embassy in Kathmandu was at the recruiting agency. We have informed the Labour Ministry about this matter.”
Neupane also said that recent developments and circumstances suggest agencies have been operating under some kind of a nexus.
“What we have gathered so far indicates although there is no syndicate legally, there are grounds to raise suspicion that such a set-up could be in operation,” said Neupane. “We cannot entirely rule out the possibility that there was no such collusion.”
The Labour Ministry has already formed a five-member committee to investigate the matter after agencies associated with NAFEA started raising concerns.
The Embassy of Qatar in Kathmandu, however, has denied its role in promoting any kind of syndicate while sending Nepali migrants to the country.
After its vehicles were found and government authorities raided agencies hiring workers for Qatari Police, the embassy said in a statement that it had no involvement in the matter of Qatari citizens visiting Nepal to select candidates for Qatar Police jobs.
According to the embassy, it had only provided its vehicle for the Qatari citizens who had come to Nepal to inspect the recruiting agencies that had shown interest in supplying Nepalis for jobs in Qatar Police.
The statement said the team was visiting the recruiting agency for a general inspection of the training provided by recruiting agencies, available technologies and whether the candidates could be physically and mentally fit for Qatar Police jobs.
Gurung criticised any possible engagement of the diplomatic mission in the activity of selecting candidates through a handful of agencies especially by flouting the laws.
“The embassy might deny its role in the selection process but why was its vehicle used? Why would the team visit one of those 17 agencies only?” said Gurung. “We know that Qatar is one of the biggest labour markets for Nepali migrant workers. This fact should not be an excuse for developing any suspicious linkage with recruiting agencies after coming under any kind of influence.”
Nearly 30 percent of all migrant workers reach Qatar every year. In 2017-18, 183,542 Nepalis received permits to work in Qatar, followed by 161,215 in 2018-19 and 81,567 last fiscal year.
“Engagement of diplomatic missions in any activity that overlooks existing laws is a sad incident. Without following the due process, which was receiving pre-approval, interviews through some selected agencies should not have taken place,” said Gurung. “A diplomatic mission must act respecting the laws of the [host] country. While the government is talking about free visa and free ticket, candidates were asked to pay Rs500,000 to Rs800,000 for Qatar Police jobs by these agencies.”