Nepalis planning to work in Qatar and other Gulf countries should be given the necessary skills and training before leaving their home country to help prevent them being exploited, a spokesman for Nepalis living abroad has said.
Unskilled and poorly educated Nepali expats are “vulnerable to exploitation at the hands of middlemen and recruitment agencies” that send labor to Gulf states, Shesh Ghale, Non-Resident Nepalese Association President, told the Qatar Tribune.
He called on the Nepal government to take action, with help from Gulf states, to set up training and skills centers to brief would-be migrant workers on their rights before they leave their home state.
“The Nepalese government must put in place a proper scanning mechanism to prevent unskilled labor from being exploited by manpower agencies.
It must collaborate with employers and the GCC governments directly to understand their requirements and possibly invite them to Nepal to set up training centers to skill the local youth before getting them ready for jobs abroad,” he added.
Ghale was in Doha at the weekend addressing more than 500 Nepali expats at a convention for the NRNA National Coordination Council.
Better labor rights
Ghale’s appeals echo similar calls made by Nepal’s State Minister for Labor, Tek Bahadur Gurung, in April.
At that time, he met with Qatar’s Labor Minister Abdullah bin Saleh Al Khulaifi during an official visit to Katmandu to enhance conditions for Nepalis in Qatar.
According to Nepali media, Gurung requested improved insurance coverage for Nepali workers that, if implemented, would mean that families of those killed by heart attacks or other unknown causes would be entitled to compensation.
According to local publication Kantipur, in around 70 percent of the cases where Nepalis have died in Qatar and the cause of their deaths has been recorded as “unknown,” their families have received no monetary assistance.
As the deceased are often the main breadwinners for their wider families, this causes significant hardship.
Pre-departure orientation sessions for workers and enforcing the need for employers to pay the illegal commissions regularly demanded by manpower agencies were also raised as key concerns during the Qatar Labor Minister’s four-day visit.
It is illegal for recruitment agencies and sub-agents to charge fees to send workers from Nepal to Qatar, but the practice is rampant and often causes a worker to be beset with debt before he leaves his home country.
A 160-page, Qatar Foundation-commissioned report, Migrant Labor Recruitment to Qatar, which was published last year said the system was “essentially a form of extortion by agents to secure jobs in Qatar.”
According to that report, Nepalis seeking to work in Qatar fork out an average $1,300 in fees – the highest of any of the five top labor-sending countries.
To secure contracts, recruiters often offer to pay companies between $200-$600 per employee needed. The agent then recoups that money from the workers by adding it on to their admin fees.
Calling for an end to the system, the report said:
“This practice must be seen as one of the most cynically exploitative practices in modern labor recruitment. It is the most vulnerable, the poorest, low-skilled, least-educated and least able to pay who are charged the fees (by the agents).”
Meanwhile, it would appear that Indonesian President Joko Widodo is keen to build relations with Qatar, with plans underway for a two-day trip to the state in September, Qatar Tribune reports.
The Indonesian Ambassador to Qatar, Deddy Saiful Hadi told the newspaper that the focus of the proposed visit would be to strengthen economic ties, citing a prospective surge in the number of Indonesian workers moving to Qatar as job opportunities increase.
However, the visit would be in the shadow of a decision made by Widodo in May this year to ban Indonesians from working as domestic help in Qatar and 20 other countries in the region.
Reportedly implemented to protect the “human values and the dignity of the nation,” the ban is due to come into effect this month. It does not affect those already working abroad, but prevents any new workers seeking overseas employment from getting jobs in the region.