The Malaysian Government has requested Nepal to ease the ban on outbound contract workers put in place after news reports of overcharging by visa and permit processing companies created an uproar.

Malaysian Human Resource Minister M Kulasegaran called the complete restriction “unfortunate”, and said it will setback his country’s plantation, construction and security services sectors which are heavily reliant on Nepali migrant workers.

Nepal’s new Labour Minister GokarnaBista instituted the ban after reports that Nepali workers were coerced to process their documents only through prescribed companies which were fleecing them. News reporters, including in this paper detailed the fees, which amounted to Rs5 billion over the last five years.

Speaking in Ipoh, the Malaysian minister said he understood the reason for the Nepal government’s unhappiness over the screening process applied to Nepalis seeking employment in Malaysia, but said it was being applied to workers from other countries as well. There are nearly 400,000 documented Nepali workers in Malaysia.

“The fee for processing visas for Nepali workers is only US$20, but we were made to understand that thousands of ringgit were spent for other processes such as medical screening, where some other private companies are involved,” Kulasegaran was quoted as saying in the Malay Mail.“All these were approved by the former government. We are reviewing this matter and finding ways to overcome it.”

Malay Mailfurther wrote: ‘The Nepali Times published an article titled “Kleptocrats of Kathmandu and Kuala Lumpur” on July 20, in which it said it had evidence of high-level collusion between certain interested parties in Malaysia and Nepal to allegedly “fleece” the latter country’s workers.’

Bestinet Sdn Bhd, which was one of the companies involved, issued a statement on 23 July to rebut the claims made by an investigative cross-border reporting by the Centre for Investigative Journalism Nepal (CIJ-N) and published in Himal Khabarpatrika and Nepali Times. Bestinet Sdn Bhd was found to be closely linked to former home minister Datuk Seri Ahmad ZahidHamidi, who has denied any involvement and offered to be investigated.

Meanwhile, Kulasegaran said he is preparing a new policy on handling the intake of foreign workers and has met with Nepal’s ambassador in Kuala Lumpur to sort out the matter. He said the Malaysia would restore the system of hiring foreign workers back to the G2G (government-to-government) approach without any middlemen, reported The Star.

There would be an inevitable labour shortage in Malaysia if the ban on Nepali workers continues, and the moratorium was not relaxed, the minister added.

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