Kathmandu, April 24
The long-awaited review of Nepal-Qatar bilateral labour agreement has been stalled due to confusion related to the lounge fee.
The government of Qatar has said it will establish a visa and bio-metric health centre in Kathmandu soon, which will be the largest such facility in Asia. While the Qatari government claims that establishment of such a centre will end prevailing suppression on Nepali workers, the Nepal government has expressed alarm at the $137 that will be charged per Nepali migrant in the name of ‘lounge fee’.
Narayan Regmi, spokesperson the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MoLESS), informed that two series of discussions have already been held with Qatari officials on reviewing the labour agreement. “But no further discussion has been held after the lounge fee was proposed.”
The Qatar Visa Centre has been taking lounge fees from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The centre has been taking 2,900 Bangladeshi takas, INR 2,500, 4,840 Pakistani rupees and 6,000 Sri Lankan rupees from every individual that enters their lounges.
According to Qatar Embassy in Nepal, the Qatari government had assigned the responsibility to set up the bio-metric centre to Singapore-based company named Biomet Smart Identity Solutions. The company will also be responsible for providing health and visa-related services to Nepali migrant workers going to Qatar. The Biomet has authorised Multiverse Connect Pvt Ltd in Kathmandu to carry out visa-related works.
“We have clearly told the Nepal government that no migrant worker will have to pay any money to the Qatar government for visa,” said an official from the Qatar Embassy in Nepal seeking anonymity.
The official further said that the Nepal government should instead look into whether the assigned company is trying to cheat its citizens.
Meanwhile, Hem Bahadur Gurung, chairman of Multiverse Connect, said that the issue of lounge fee is to be sorted out by the governments of Qatar and Nepal.
“As per our understanding, we’ll only take charges from Nepali travellers who wish to go Qatar on tourist visa.”
While disclosing the plans of the centre in November last year, Ambassador of Qatar to Nepal Yousuf Bin Mohammed Al-Hail had said setting up of the centre would ensure a hassle-free process for Nepalis seeking employment in Qatar. He had informed that setting up of the bio-metric health centre in the country would rid Nepali workers of the obligation of again conducting another check-up in Qatar.
According to the plan, the centre will be equipped with all the facilities of bio-metric health check-up centre, including electronic contract paper and electronic fingerprints.
But the Qatari government has not clarified on the $137 charge for migrant workers to take the service.
Regmi further said that the government needed assurance from the Qatari government the visa centre was part of the embassy. “We cannot continue the discussion on the labour agreement simply based on verbal assurances that the lounge fee will be borne by the employers.”
A version of this article appears in print on April 25, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.