KATHMANDU, Oct 16: Qatar has started a scheme to reimburse expatriate workers who were forced to pay exorbitant fees to get employed there in a move that could benefit thousands of Nepali migrant workers.
The drive would help reimburse more than 100 million Qatari riyals, or approximately Rs 3.082 billion, to workers who were made to pay illegal recruitment fees in their countries before coming to Qatar, the Supreme Committee Delivery and Legacy, a body tasked with delivering the proposed tournament venues and host country planning and operations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup going to be held in Qatar, said in a video message posted on its official Twitter handle.
But it is unclear what criteria would be followed to identify beneficiaries and the amount each worker would receive in reimbursement, but observers say that the scheme, if implemented properly, would provide great relief to workers.
“This is very good. Wish they’d spend the money they spent on this video on reimbursing some more workers,” Nicholas McGeehan, a director of Fair/Square Projects, an organization that conducts research on Gulf migrant workers, remarked in a tweet on Monday.
Despite a low-cost recruitment policy, commonly known as free-visa-free-ticket-scheme, adopted by the government, workers are still forced to pay exorbitant amounts to get employed in various work destinations in the Gulf and Malaysia.
Bhuwan Bahadur DC [name changed], a Nepali worker working in one of the world cup stadiums in Qatar, said that he paid Rs 90,000 to go to Qatar.
“It’s been almost a year but I am still struggling to pay back the loan I borrowed while coming here,” DC, a worker who got the job through a manpower agency in Kathmandu, told Republica. DC, a manual laborer earns, around Rs 20,000 per month. Around 400,000 Nepalis are currently employed in Qatar.
A survey conducted among 414 Nepali migrant workers by the Amnesty International in 2017 found that 88% were paying fees to recruitment agents for their jobs overseas. Most of them had to borrow loans with high interest rates to pay off the fees, trapping them in “a vicious cycle of debt and exploitation.”
The study also revealed that 53% of workers received lower monthly salaries than what was promised to them by recruitment agents in Nepal, hence adding to the burden of accumulating debt.
In an interview with Republica last year, Kiran Kishore Ghimire, former chairperson of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, had admitted widespread practice among manpower agencies of charging workers high fees but issuing receipt for just Rs 10,000.
He said the scheme was also preventing agencies from paying more by way of taxes to the state.
Introduced on July 8, 2015, the free-visa-free-ticket system restricts manpower agencies from charging more than Rs 10,000 to workers going to work in seven countries -- Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. Several studies including one done by the The Amnesty International had shown colossal failure of the policy in promoting ethical recruitment and reducing cost of overseas employment.