CMIR was active in pressuring the government to reform recruitment processes which are relatively unmonitored and often lead to worker exploitation and debt bondage. CMIR began by hosting round-table discussions to identify recruitment challenges and even participated in rallies in favor of the Free Visa Free Ticket Policy. Along with other civil society partners, CMIR then visited the government and used policy documents, articles about recruitment processes and data collected from cases to write and submit a Memorandum of Appeal.
As the government moves forward with decentralization from Kathmandu, CMIR is continuing to conduct research to provide policy recommendations for the new minister with the hope of increasing government collaboration in decentralizing key components of the recruitment process making it easier and safer for migrant workers to obtain foreign employment.
Free Visa Free Ticket
Before the implementation of Free Visa Free Ticket policy, the government allowed manpower agencies to charge migrant workers a minimum of NPR 70,000 as recruitment fee to Gulf countries and NPR 80,000 to Malaysia. This practice financially burdened the migrant workers who had to borrow loans with high interest rate. The implementation of Free Visa Free ticket has definitely helped lower the suffering and lifted the financial load for them. Migrant workers going to Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman are entitled to benefit from this policy.
Free Visa Free Ticket is a significant provision made by government on behalf of the migrant workers. Finding the need to address the financial exploitation of the migrant workers from the manpower agencies at the policy level, many civil society organizations, including non-governmental organizations like Center for Migration and International Relations (CMIR), persuaded the government to implement the policy for the welfare of the migrant workers.
In a long battle to sensitize the government to turn the policy into reality, CMIR and other organizations fearlessly submitted memorandum to the government agencies and frequently published news articles in different media platforms and also conducted non-violent protest. Thus, on July 12, 2015, the government officially announced that Free Visa Free Ticket was into force.
If a migrant worker is travelling to any country endorsed in the Free Visa Free Ticket policy, their visa and travel fees are to be waived. In such case, it would be illegal for manpower agencies to deduce the sum from the workers’ wages in the name of visa and ticket expenses. However, the recruitment agencies can charge a maximum of NPR 10000 under promotional fees and services only when the employer institution doesn’t bear the travel expenses and visa fees. But the agency should provide authentic verification of the detail.
The national and international rules and regulations that coincide with the Free Visa and Free Ticket policy are the 1990 UN Convention, ILO Convention 181, Dhaka Principle for Migration with dignity 2012, Sponsorship/Kafala system in Gulf countries, Malaysian Law (Workman Compensation Act 1952), Labour Agreement between Nepal and Qatar on 21 March 2005, 10 Point Agreement between Nepal and Baharain on 3 April 2015. All the above mentioned provisions clearly declare that the air ticket and Visa expenses should be borne by the employer institutions and not by the migrant workers.
The official declaration of Free Visa and Free Ticket has nullified the 2060/01/24 declaration that entitled migrant workers to pay NPR 80000 if they are going to Malaysia and NPR 70000 if they are going to Gulf countries. Though the Free Visa Free Ticket policy is inclined towards the welfare of migrant workers, its effective implementation is still under interrogation. Still there’s a lack of proper surveillance on departure/arrival to confirm whether or not the workers are made to pay for their visa and travel expenses by their agents. Memorandum letter to the government
Foreign Employment Act Amendment
After the Foreign Employment Act of 2007 was put into effect, it became clear that there were some loopholes that facilitated the exploitation of migrant workers that were not previously addressed. In an effort to provide recommendations to protect migrant workers and their families, CMIR in membership with the Civil Society Alliance, an informal alliance between national and local level NGOs who work in the foreign labor sector in Nepal, compiled a document that proposed amendments and submitted it to the former and current Minister of Ministry of Labour and Employment in May 2017. The draft still needs to be reviewed by the
Law Ministry and by the Cabinet before it can become an official amendment to the Act. Since the submission of the draft, the Civil Society Alliance has been pressuring the government to speed up the reviewing process. CMIR and other members of the Civil Society Alliance have filed public interest litigation, hosted multiple round-table discussions with government officials, written articles pressuring the government, and participated in advocacy rallies.