KATHMANDU, July 19: Despite the government's introduction of free visa and free ticket policy for Nepalis seeking employment in Malaysia and some countries in the Gulf, many migrant workers going to these countries are still forced to pay more than the required amount as processing fee.
Furthermore, Nepali migrants aspiring to work in Malaysia are being fleeced by making them pay extra charges in the name of providing services like a controversial biometric medical check-up system.
The biometric screening is a fingerprint scanning system with security features to match an individual's identity with the data recorded in the passport. As per the system, Nepali migrants flying to Malaysia to work are supposed to undergo biometric screening for Rs 4,500 each, an increment from the earlier Rs 2,600 for the same.
To add much financial burden on Nepali migrants aspiring for employment in Malaysia, another system--MiGRAMS--a foreign workers centralized management system, in an attempt to make money through a channel, has been introduced in Nepal from May 1, 2016.
As per the system, each migrant worker going to Malaysia is entitled to pay an additional Rs 3,200 for the medical services provided through it.
Amid protest and criticism from concerned authorities, a majority of 28 medical companies authorized to provide health check-up facilities and recruiting agencies sending workers to Malaysia, the new biometric system has been implemented in Nepal under pressure from higher-ups, both in Nepal and Malaysia. A total of 39 medical clinics have been identified by the Malaysian government for conducting the system.
It may be noted that two years ago, the International Relations and Labour Committee of the Parliament, citing concerns over cost, security and necessity of the proposed system, directed the then government not to implement the system.
It, however, revoked its direction and allowed the system for a pilot test for six months after the return of its team led by lawmakers, which visited Malaysia at the invitation of a concerned company in Malaysia lobbying to implement the system in Nepal, said Kumud Khanal, Vice Chairman of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies.
Likewise, a subcommittee led by lawmaker Jitendra Dev was formed to conduct a study on the proposed system also put forth an eight-point condition to implement the system as pilot study for six months.
The condition includes that the total 284 medical companies authorized to provide health check-up facilities should be allowed to run the system.
Also, the system would be implemented in Nepal only after its implementation in other countries sending migrant workers to Malaysia, apart from the condition that Nepali migrants would not be left with financial burden in the name of the system.
Although the set timeframe to implement the system as pilot test has already been expired, concerned authorities have yet to take a decision whether the system would be continued or scrapped, thus leaving Nepali migrants going to Malaysia for jobs with financial burden.
Interestingly, the system introduced by Bestinet Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian Company that compiles the biometric test reports of workers, was supposed to be implemented in other 14 countries sending migrants to Malaysia. However, it was implemented only in Nepal. It is said that the Bestinet Sdn is owned by a relative of the Minister for Defense of Malaysia and he, through Malaysian government, won confidence of Nepali authorities and got the system implemented in Nepal.
Likewise, the Malaysian agent VLN Nepal is said to be charging Rs 3,900 from each aspiring Nepali migrant worker for visa processing. But the applicants are given a receipt for only Rs 700, the fee charged before VLN Nepal started its service three years ago.
Although the IRLC had ordered the government to scrap the license of the VLN Nepal two years ago for not abiding by the Nepal's Company Registration Law, it is yet to be implemented.
On the part of concerned authorities, they blame failure of the government and other concerned authorities to conduct regular monitoring and taking action against the guilty, for the worsening condition.
Although the system is flawed at the policy level, the government fails to take any step in this regard, said Khanal. "The government should communicate to the Malaysian government, saying that it cannot implement the system due to cost burden. But the government lacks willpower in this regard."
Upon inquiry, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Employment Gobinda Mani Bhurtel said that the government was making efforts to resolve problems in foreign employment in Malaysia. He was of the view that such problems would end once a labour agreement was reached with Malaysia.
Until then, it seems Nepali migrant workers going to Malaysia will continue to suffer.