Kathmandu, August 7

A total of 18 Nepali migrant workers employed with Sadat Al Ameed for Contracting, a Saudi Arabia-based company, have requested the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) to arrange for them to return home. As per the complaint filed at DoFE, the workers have not been paid by the aforesaid employer since they were recruited.

The manpower firm had obtained final approval from DoFE on April 10 this year, which means the migrant workers who have filed the complaint were employed in Saudi Arabia only a few months back. The Sadat Al Ameed for Contracting recruited the workers through a foreign employment agency called Emasco Nepal Pvt Ltd. The manpower agency had said that the workers would get 1,000 Saudi riyals as salary every month and their job would be ‘public building cleaning’.

This is only one representative case. DoFE has been flooded with such complaints since the last few months. “The number of complaints from Saudi Arabia has been increasing every passing month,” said Govinda Prasad Upadhyay, director at the Investigation Section of DoFE. “It is mainly the migrant workers who recently went to Saudi who have been filing complaints. The number of workers wanting to return to the country is on the rise.”

The nature of the complaints is mainly related to payments from employers, which used to be rare in the past. Earlier, most complaints used to be related to money being swindled from migrant workers by Nepali manpower agencies and jobs that were different than those mentioned in contract letter.

According to Upadhyay, as per the provision of Foreign Employment Act, 2007, pre-approval of the  DoFE is valid for three years, so some manpower agencies have been sending workers based on the old demands. He says that the job market in the Gulf region at present is volatile so sending workers on old demands will create problems.

In terms of complaints registered at DoFE in last six months of fiscal 2015-16, the number of complaints from Saudi Arabia has topped the list with 279 complaints, followed by Malaysia with 275 complaints.

After the rampant fall in oil prices in the international market, the net oil-exporter Saudi Arabia, has been facing an economic downturn. This has adversely affected the migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, which is one of the major labour destinations for foreign job seekers in Nepal.

Saudi Arabia has become a popular destination for Nepali foreign job seekers after Malaysia banned foreign labour from February to May this year. It is said that currently there are around 700,000 Nepali workers in Saudi Arabia.

As per Mohan Adhikari, spokesperson of DoFE, the government has not taken any decision regarding banning migrant workers from seeking jobs in Saudi Arabia and the DoFE has been extending approvals on the demands brought by the manpower firms.

“We have made manpower agencies more liable so that they bring demands only from reputed companies,” he said. “If the employer does not pay the worker or does not meet any condition mentioned in the contract letter then it

will be the responsibility of the manpower firm to bring them back and pay the salary of that period.”

DoFE conducts an investigation after a complaint is lodged at the department. If the manpower agency is found guilty then DoFE withdraws money from the guarantee amount deposited by the manpower agencies to compensate the worker’s salary. Manpower firms need to deposit a cash guarantee worth Rs 700,000 and bank guarantee worth Rs 2.3 million to get their licence renewed. DoFE has the authority to suspend the licence of any manpower firm, which does not deposit the required guarantee amount after DoFE has withdrawn it to compensate the workers.

However, Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA) has said that workers started filing complaints at DoFE without trying to find out the facts from the employers. In Saudi Arabia, it takes at least three months to make a Social Security Card of the workers, which is a pre-requisite to open the bank account of the worker. The employer opens the bank account of the workers to deposit their salary after the Social Security Card is issued, said Kumud Khanal, vice president of NAFEA. “At least the workers have to verify with employers before filing the complaints.”

Number of foreign job seekers down

KATHMANDU: The outflow of migrant workers for foreign jobs significantly dropped in the last fiscal 2015-16 as compared to the previous year. A drop of 18.36 per cent was witnessed in fiscal 2015-16 as compared to the previous year. According to the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) a total of 418,713 individuals migrated for foreign jobs in last fiscal as compared to 512,887 workers who left the country in fiscal 2014-15. The drop is mainly due to the slowdown in demand from oil-exporting countries as the rampant fall in oil prices has hit the spending capacity of the governments and private sector there. On the other hand, as per DoFE, youths have also decided to stay back with their families to support them in the reconstruction of their houses in the quake-hit districts due to which the number of foreign job aspirants has also decreased.