KATHMANDU: Non-resident Nepali Association (NRNA), Malaysia has demanded that the government investigate the issue of hike in fee to obtain travel documents. Citing that Nepali workers needing to return to Nepal were being ‘cheated’, the association has sought action against officials enforcing the rule.

Nepali Embassy in Malaysia on April 13 had made it mandatory for Nepalis to acquire travel documents to return to Nepal and pay fee of 1,280 ringgit (approximately Rs 35,000) first to Koperasi Imigresen Berhad, a Malaysian company before applying for the documents in the embassy. The fee also included 400 ringgit immigration charge and airfare of 550 ringgit. Under the previous provision, an applicant used to pay 160 ringgit to the embassy to get the documents and the cost to return to Nepal was around 1,110 ringgit.

“This new provision requires applicants to pay additional 330 ringgit (Rs 9,000),” according to a press release issued by NRNA Malaysia. It said that the embassy had haphazardly increased 50 ringgit two days after the devastating earthquake of April 25 .

Normally, the workers who have become illegal migrant workers as per Malaysian government rules and those who do not have their passport require travel documents to return to Nepal. Malaysia is the largest labour market for Nepalis and as per the NRNA Malaysia, there are more than 100,000 Nepalis who are staying there illegally.

According to a notice issued by Nepali Embassy in Malaysia on April 13, the provision of paying fee to Koperasi Imigresen Berhad has been made mandatory to assure easy return to Nepal. “Many of those who obtained ‘one-way travel documents’ have complained of being cheated from local agents, paying high charge and agents going out of contact,” the notice says.

The provision makes it mandatory to have receipt of 1,280 ringgit paid to the Malaysian company to get the travel documents. The embassy had coordinated with the Malaysian company to make it easy for undocumented Nepali workers to return home. However, NRNA Malaysia said that the embassy, instead of solving problems related to large number of Nepali workers, had imposed the rule that added financial burden on workers.

As per NRNA Malaysia, on the basis of additional Rs 9,000 fee from individuals, around Rs 360 million extra has been collected from workers so far. A writ petition was also filed in the Supreme Court (SC) seeking stay order to the provision enforced by Nepali embassy in Malaysia. Responding to the writ that was filed by Advocate Pusparaj Paudel, SC had issued show cause notice on June 16.

Meanwhile, NRNA Malaysia has also condemned the move of Nepali Embassy in Malaysia to outsource the job of filling machine readable passport form and taking photo to a local agent for 40 ringgit. Earlier, the embassy had held talks with NRNA Malaysia to entrust the job for eight ringgit.