The Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (Nafea) has announced infinite strike from today against the government’s decision to provide free visa and free air ticket to the workers visiting the Gulf countries and Malaysia.
Foreign employment recruiting agencies and agents this morning shut down the frontline office of the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) hindering service to more than 2,000 service seekers coming from across the country.
NAFEA protest starts just two days after the government made it mandatory for employers in seven work destinations to issue free visa and free ticket in order to hire Nepali workers.
Recruiting agencies said that they would continue to obstruct the departmental service unless the government rolls back the controversial provision. Bimal Dhakal, NAFEA ’s newly elected chairperson, said the government should first take the labour receiving government into confidence before enforcing the provision. He claimed that the provision was enforced without any homeworks and it would displace their business.
“We are ready to support the free visa and free ticket provision if the government signs labour agreement with the concerned destination countries clearly mentioning the provision. One sided decision of labour minister is not acceptable,” said Dhakal. Most of the recruiting agencies had been pressing the Ministry of Labour and Employment to take concerned stakeholders into confidence before making the decision.
The free visa and free ticket provision, which was taken in an effort to prevent economic exploitation of workers in the name of recruitment fees, came into effect from July 6. Migrant workers going to Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait will benefit from the provision. Some 3.5 million workers work in these countries.
According to the new provision, aspiring migrant workers will have to pay just for health check-ups, orientation training and migrant worker’s welfare fund. They may have to pay a maximum of Rs 10,000 as service charge if the employer is not providing the service charge to the recruiting agency.
Earlier, over 80 percent migrants have been paying at least Rs 70,000 to recruiting agencies to fly aboard. The government had fixed Rs 70,000 as service charge for workers going to the Gulf countries and Rs 80,000 for workers going to Malaysia.
Recruiting agencies have argued that the decision was “immature” as most of the amount taken from migrants goes to accredited agents of labour receiving countries and to layers of grassroots agents working in Nepal.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung said the provision was taken to end exploitation of workers.
“This provision will help to make the foreign employment sector more organized and decent. I don’t think it will bring decline in demand of Nepali workers,” said Gurung. Bhola Prasad Shiwakoti, MoLE secretary, on Monday said that the ministry would scrap the license of recruiting agencies taking charge from migrant workers .