The Kathmandu Post, 13 May 2018
Unethical practices in recruiting migrant workers are financial and psychological burden to poor workers, forcing them to work in vulnerable conditions in foreign countries, according stakeholders.
Experts from labour migration, policy makers, and epresentatives from security agencies have expressed their concerns over the exploitation and abuse faced by migrant workers especially during the recruitment process. Som Lamichhane, general secretary of the Pravashi Nepali Coordination Committee (PNCC), said all the other stakeholders were benefitted with the supply of labour force, but migrant workers are facing the brunt of unethical hiring process. “Employers don’t let workers walk away easily because they have paid to the recruiting agencies for supplying them the labour force. They end up working in vulnerable conditions as forced labour,” said Lamichhane. “Employers get cheap labour force, our country receives remittance, recruiting agencies earn commissions, but the poor workers are suffering because of such practices of cheating.”
According to a survey conducted by Amnesty International Nepal (AIN) among 414 returnees from foreign employment, 88 percent said they had paid recruitment service charges above the government ceiling. “The systematic cheating of migrant workers continues unabated. They are given the work contract at the 11th hour so they have no option but to sign and take up work,” AIN Campaign Officer Ashmita Sapkota said. “Such deals often occur in hotel rooms, away from their offices. And some of them are even made to speak in front of the camera that they didn’t pay extra for service charges.” The practice of not giving the actual receipt to the aspirant migrant workers for the amount they have paid makes them more vulnerable to cheating.
Even if such cases are brought to the attention of the authorities concerned, they are often discreetly settled between the parties involved, according to the industry insiders. Participants at the event ‘Policy Dialogue: State and Business Accountability on Recruitment Abuses’, have pointed out rampant cases of cheating of migrant workers by recruitment agencies and their agents. However, they are neither brought to book nor penalised to deter them from cheating others. Director General of Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) Bhuwan Prasad Acharya conceded that cheating in the foreign employment sector was widespread.
“We have cracked down on fake agents and branches of recruiting agencies even outside the Capital. We have asked them to give lists of their registered agents. Recruiting agencies should also take responsibility for eliminating such practices,” added Acharya. Participants at the event, jointly orgnised by the AIN and PNCC, also called for enforcement of the existing laws like shutting down those recruiting agencies and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
“Most of the cases are settled through agreement between two parties involved. The DoFE just plays the part as facilitator,” said Acharya, adding that only shutting down such defiant recruiting agencies is not good enough. Participants said the existing Foreign Employment Act (2007) was made, keeping the foreign employment business at the centre instead of the most vulnerable actors--migrant workers. According to Barun Ghimire, program manager at the Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice, laws alone would not solve the problems facing the foreign employment sector.
“Only having the laws cannot address these problems. We have to find out how many agencies have been penalised for cheating our workers till this date. Strict enforcement is necessary but our priorities change with a change in government and problems remain unresolved,” said Paudel.