House panel unmoved by minister’s plea

Kathmandu, December 24

A conflict arose between the government and a panel of the House of Representatives today after the latter refused to accept the line minister’s proposal to ease restrictions on Nepali migrant workers.

The Industry, Commerce, Labour and Consumer Welfare panel led by Prabhu Sah had issued directives on 2 April  2017 barring Nepali workers who had gone to Middle East countries illegally from going to those countries again for work. Due to this directive, those who have gone to Middle East countries — Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia  and Oman — illegally and got legal status in their respective destinations are afraid to return to Nepal fearing they will not be able to go to those countries again due to ICLCW’s directives.

Minister of Labour Employment and Social Security Gokarna Bista requested the panel to lift the restriction on Nepali migrant workers.

The minister said hundreds of Nepali migrant workers had complained to his ministry saying they were afraid of returning to their own country due to the panel’s directive that would prevent them from returning to their destination countries for work.

“We have received hundreds of complaints from Nepali workers who are facing difficulties due to the panels’ directives,” Bista said. “Although they went illegally to the Middle East countries, we should let them come and go again to their destination countries without creating any problem for them.”

“I came across a case. A Nepali worker, who is earning more than Rs 150,000 a month in a Middle East country who did not want to come back to Nepal to observe rituals after his mother passed away,” the minister added.

But most of the panel members were, however, not moved by the Minister’s plea. They said it would not be right to allow those workers who went to ME countries illegally to go to those countries again for work. They said if the panel’s directive was withdrawn, that could encourage people to go to ME countries illegally.

After the discussion, Chairperson of panel Bimal Prasad Srivastav told the minister to submit a detailed report of the government policy to address the problems facing migrant workers.

“This panel will come up with its final report after reviewing the ministry’s report,” he said.

Minister Bista told the panel that if Nepali workers faced serious problems due to the panel’s directives, then the panel should take responsibility for such problems.

“If the panel wants, we have no problem informing migrant workers about the restriction placed by the panel. We can put the panel’s restrictive message in hoarding boards. We can also put the message in our web pages,” he said.

The House panel also directed the government to arrange lawmakers’ trip to destination countries so that they could get first hand information about the problems.

According to government data, more than 4,600,000 Nepalis are working in more than 10 countries including the Middle East, and they contribute around 25 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product with the remittance they send to the country.