National

‘Free visa free ticket’ still far from implementation four years after is launch

  • Auditor general’s new report says concerned authorities failed to monitor  
- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Apr 14, 2019-

It has been almost four years since the government announced “free visa, free ticket” scheme to relieve financial burden of migrant workers, but its implementation has  largely been ineffective.

The ambitious scheme had made it mandatory for employers to bear the airfare and visa expenses on behalf of the workers applying for jobs in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Malaysia. Workers were only supposed to pay for medical test, orientation training and recruiting agencies for their services.

However, the majority of aspirant migrant workers have been unable to benefit from the scheme. Thousands of people are still paying hefty amounts to recruiting agencies for overseas jobs.

Barun Ghimire, programme manager at the Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice, said the implementation of the scheme has been poor due to lack of political commitment.

“Implementation of free visa and free ticket scheme was never on the priority list of the government. The political commitment on the part of the government has lacked because of the fact that its implementation will hurt the recruiting agencies,” said Ghimire.

In August 2017, Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice and Asian Human Rights and Culture Development Forum had registered a Public Interest Litigation in August  2017, demanding effective implementation of the scheme.

Responding to the litigation, the Supreme Court in January issued a directive to the government, asking it to enforce the scheme to ensure the much-needed respite to migrant workers from massive financial burden they undergo while going abroad for employment.

“The government agencies have so far sidelined the implementation of this scheme. This tendency shows the state’s old habit of leaving things at status quo,” Ghimire told the Post.

The latest report of the Office of the Auditor General has also pointed out that the scheme has not been fully implemented and migrant workers have been paying recruiting agencies above the government-set ceiling.

“The Department of Foreign Employment has not monitored whether the employer or recruiting agencies have paid for airfare, insurance, and visa fees,” reads the report made public on Friday.

In 2017, a subcommittee of the parliamentary International Relations and Labour Committee, in its report, had concluded that free visa and free ticket was a complete failure.

Lawmakers had found that migrant workers had paid from Rs 50,000 to Rs 900,000 for jobs despite “free visa free ticket” provision in place.

“If the government wants to strictly enforce the policy, it easily can,” Ghimire said. “At least, the government authorities can raid recruiting agencies regularly which will send a strong message to those involved in charging heavy amount to poor migrant workers.”

 

Published: 15-04-2019 07:00

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