Nepalis being sent to Qatar for security jobs via illegal routes, officials suspectThe circulation of an electronic copy of a ‘Police Army Staff’ visa issued in the name of a Nepali national even without proper permits from the government raises concerns.
The controversy surrounding the recruitment of Nepals in Qatar’s security forces has resurfaced after authorities concerned suspected that migrant workers are being sent to the Gulf state by flouting official procedures.
Foreign employment officials recently found out that a Nepali national had been issued a visa to take up a position in Qatar’s security force. The visa, issued on Tuesday (January 19), states that the Nepali national is being recruited under the “Police Army Staff” category.
“We have also received the electronic copy of the visa issued to a Nepali citizen. We have also heard that workers are reportedly being sent to work for Qatar police,” Kumar Prasad Dahal, director-general of the Department of Foreign Employment, the government body overseeing the foreign employment sector, told the Post.
For several years, the gas-rich state has remained one of the top-major labour destination countries for Nepali migrant workers—31.8 percent of all Nepali migrant labourers went to Qatar in 2018-19. But in the past few months, recruitment of Nepali workers has run into controversy. Various groups of recruiting agencies allege that the government is planning to give exclusive rights to 17 select agencies to send workers to Qatar, especially for police jobs.
“We are trying to ascertain the authenticity of the visa [issued under the “Police Army Staff” category]. It could also be some agents’ ploy to milk job seekers,” said Dahal. “It seems the group is active in sending Nepalis to Qatar by flouting labour migration rules.”
In November last year, some recruiting agencies were found to have been conducting interviews for security jobs in Qatar without even completing due processes.
According to Dahal, Nepal’s ambassador to Qatar Narad Nath Bharadwaj, also called Dahal and expressed concerns about the controversial visa, suspecting foul play. “Some local employers also complained to the Nepali envoy about the issue,” said Dahal.
When the personal details of the Nepali man, who received the security job visa, was entered on the Department of Foreign Employment’s website, it was found that he had not obtained a labour permit, mandatory for foreign employment. The person’s labour migration history reveals that he previously worked as a security guard in the United Arab Emirates.
Following complaints from various recruiting agencies, officials conducted back-to-back raids at three recruiting agencies who were allegedly snubbing regular procedures. The presence of a vehicle belonging to the Qatari Embassy in Kathmandu at one of the agencies also signalled that a syndicate was being formed to send Nepali workers to the Gulf state.
After Parliament’s Labour and Consumer Welfare Committee on November 10 directed the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security to investigate the case and submit a report, the Labour Ministry formed a five-member committee, led by Dahal, director-general of the foreign employment department, to look into the matter.
The department suspended three agencies for conducting interviews for Qatari police jobs without proper permits. But the committee concluded that there was no such syndicate in existence.
The latest controversy has once again put the spotlight on the hiring of Nepalis for security jobs that could be happening via illicit ways.
Meanwhile, Rajendra Bajgain, whose company Gurkha Encounters Group Pvt Ltd is reportedly among the 17 companies, said his company had proposed to provide consultancy services to the Qatari government to select Nepali workers for security jobs.
“My company is the only security consultant company offering the service, others are just recruiting agencies,” said Bajgain.
“We had advised the Qatari ambassador and their delegates to follow regular procedures while hiring Nepali workers for Qatari security jobs without making them pay. But it seems they haven’t listened to us.”
As the World Cup dates draw closer, despite its commitments, little progress has been made in protecting migrant workers on its soil, said Human Rights Watch in a report in August last year.
The hiring of Nepali security guards by snubbing regular processes will leave Nepali migrants more vulnerable to exploitation. During raids by the department, candidates had informed officials that they were asked to pay Rs500,000 to Rs800,000 for Qatar police jobs.
According to a source that closely follows the latest developments in Qatar’s security personnel recruitment, candidates are being charged $6,000 (approximately Rs 1,051,893) for security force jobs.
“Recruiting agencies and agents have gathered around 300 Nepali workers to send them to Qatar to work in the country’s police force. Sixty workers have already received their visas. These workers will be sent via India,” said the source.
Hours later, Dahal, director-general at the Foreign Employment, confirmed to the Post that the visa issued in the name of the Nepali citizen was indeed authentic.
“But the government has not attested any workers’ demand for security sector jobs in Qatar. It seems backdoor channels are being used to send Nepalis to Qatar after we took action against agencies that were interviewing candidates for the jobs,” said Dahal. “They are ignoring foreign employment procedures at their own peril. Chances are these workers, who are being selected for Qatari police jobs, will be taken to Qatar via Indian airports.”
Dahal also told the Post that he had unverified information that 30 Qatari nationals came to Kathmandu to interview workers and each candidate was asked to pay Rs800,000 to Rs 1,200,000 for the job.
“The government has not issued permission to select or interview Nepalis for Qatari police or security force jobs in Qatar,” said Dahal. “If workers are not going through the official processes, then we can’t say where these people might be going. We don’t know if they are being trafficked, or being subjected to abuse.”