Nepal has stopped issuing labour permits to those migrant workers whose air tickets and visa fees are not borne by their employers.
The government implemented its zero-cost migration policy from Monday denying migrant workers labour permits to work in Malaysia and six Gulf countries (Saudi Arabai, Qatar, Baharai, Oman, UAE and Kuwait).
Manpower agents have vehemently criticised the policy, saying it is not practically possible . They also say Bangladeshi migrant workers might grab all job opportunities in Malaysia and the Gulf if Nepal does not give up its new policy.
On Monday, dozens of manpower agents reached the Tahachal office of the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) to seek labour permits for their clients. But no one could get labour permits for their clients because they did not have letters written by employers committing to provide air tickets and visa fees.
“From today, we can issue labour permits to only those migrant workers whose applications are attached with letters by employers ready to pay for their air tickets and visa fees,” said Bishwo Prakash Subedi, an under-secretary at the DoFE. “And these employers’ letters should be attested by our embassies in Malaysia and the Gulf.”
Labour Minister Tek Bahadur Gurung had earlier told Nepali Times that the zero-cost policy was to end exploitation of migrant workers. “Well-established employer companies are always ready to pay for migrant workers’ air tickets and visa fees,” he said. “Only those companies that do not pay good salaries are not ready to provide these facilities, and we do not want them to hire our migrant workers.”
The government’s new move has angered manpower agents. They have been lobbying for the withdrawal of the zero-cost policy. They recently met Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and urged him to revoke the policy, which they say will have negative impacts on the remittance-driven economy.
Labour Miniser Gurung says manpower agents are against the new policy as it will prevent them from fleecing poor and helpless migrant workers. As per the new policy, manpower agents can charge migrant workers only around Rs 20,000. Earlier, migrant workers would have to pay anything between Rs 70,000-Rs 120,000.
After the new policy came into effect, manpower agents who do not have employers’ commitment letters for air tickets and visa fees have been unable to obtain labour permits for their clients.
Fish Ladder Employment Overseas, a Kathmandu-based manpower agency, has received job quotas for 30 migrant workers from a Dubai-based construction company. Mani Raj Adhikari of Fish Ladder on Monday reached the DoFE office to seek labor permits to his clients, but only to return empty-handed. The Dubai company for which he wants to send 30 migrant workers has not paid for their air tickets and visa fees.
“This new policy will not allow most manpower agencies like ours to work,” he said. “Only a few agencies will benefit from it.”
Om Astha Rai
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