Nepal | May 26, 2019

Manpower firms to sit for talks today

Labour ministry may decide to roll back free visa, free ticket provision

Pushpa Raj Acharya

Kathmandu, April 2

The dispute related to ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision while sending workers to seven major labour destinations may finally be drawing to an end, with the government possibly rolling back its earlier decision.

During the ongoing talks with the agitating manpower agencies, which started from Thursday, the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) is convinced to adopt a similar model adopted by labour sending countries of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, among others.

It is reported that these countries do not have the zero cost provision like the one Nepal has enforced. The zero cost provision for outbound workers was implemented from the first week of July last year by the earlier government.

The second round of talks between the MoLE and manpower agencies has been slated for Sunday.

“We, as well as the government, are studying the model of other labour sending countries of SAARC and ASEAN and we may come to a common ground during the meeting scheduled for tomorrow,” Bimal Prasad Dhakal, president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA) told The Himalayan Times.

Bishnu Lamsal, secretary of MoLE, however, said that the government has not taken a final decision on suspending the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision. “But we are mulling over resolving a wide range of problems facing the entire foreign employment sector related with labour and manpower agencies, among others, rather than dealing with them in a piecemeal approach.”

Manpower agencies, which had been protesting by suspending all operations of their firms, had resumed operation partially from Thursday as the government had invited them for talks.

President of NAFEA further said that they will not initiate the process of applying for pre-approval of foreign job seekers until the government resolves the issues. This is because they have been claiming they cannot bring demand from foreign countries while abiding by the government’s instruction not to charge more than Rs 10,000 as service fee to send workers to six Gulf countries — Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman — and Malaysia.

“Currently, we are only facilitating those foreign job aspirants who obtained visa till the end of March in getting final approval from the Department of Foreign Employment,” he said.

Manpower agencies had suspended all their operations since March 6 after the police had raided the offices of some manpower agencies in the last week of February, on the charge of swindling money from foreign job aspirants.

When announcing the protest, NAFEA had said that manpower firms would not resume their services till the government addresses their demands — primarily, ‘end police brutality’.

But the actual crux of the protest was ‘free visa, free ticket’ row. The police had raided the offices of a number of manpower agencies after receiving numerous complaints from foreign job-seekers of being charged an amount that was much higher than allowed by the law as per the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision.

The MoLE has been preparing to amend the Foreign Employment Act, 2007, and Foreign Employment Rules, 2008, in a bid to make the laws more contextual as per the changing dynamics of foreign employment, as per Lamsal.

MoLE has already formed a committee chaired by Joint Secretary Surya Prasad Shrestha, which comprises Executive Director of Foreign Employment Promotion Board Raghu Raj Kafle, Director General of Department of Foreign Employment Kedar Bahadur Bogati, undersecretary of legal division of MoLE, representative from NAFEA and representative from migrant returnees’ organisations to amend the existing Foreign Employment Act and Rules to address all the problems that have been witnessed in the foreign employment sector.

A version of this article appears in print on April 03, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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