Chandan Kumar Mandal
Scores of Nepali workers in Qatar are left in the lurch after falling into the trap of agents and recruiting agencies that promise them lucrative jobs and the prospect of changing work through a special visa scheme once landing in Qatar.
Nepalis who go to Qatar on free visa—commonly known as Aazad Visa—which the agents claim would provide them with the freedom to work with any employer in Qatar, are often stranded without any jobs in the Gulf nation.
The Nepali embassy in Qatar told the Post that it regularly comes across workers who have entered Qatar under this visa category. But there’s one problem: the visa category doesn’t exist.
“This is not any special or different category of visa given to migrant workers. They enter Qatar following the normal procedure,” Narendra Raj Gyanwali, labour attaché at the Nepali embassy in Doha, told the Post over telephone. “Even workers try to hide during pre-departure processing as they hope that they will be earning handsome salary there.”
This category of visa is mostly created in collusion with agents, recruiting agencies, employer companies and their human resource officials. They lure migrant workers saying that they can change their company or employer and can work freely hence earn more money than a regular job.
They also assure workers that their first company that had issued the working visa would provide the no objection certificate (NOC) that will allow them to work anywhere else.
“A company or an individual would sponsor the worker for his/her arrival into Qatar on working visa. The company would complete all the formalities,” said Jeevan Baniya, a labour migration researcher with the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM).
According to Baniya, workers, especially drivers, have the chance of making a good income as they are often paid per trip. However, most of the workers become vulnerable to exploitation and turning jobless after going to Qatar through this scheme.
At times some companies also work together in a system in which one company brings in the worker whereas others manage them.
The problem arises when the companies do not provide the NOC to the workers or they struggle to get jobs on their own even after the company sets them free.
Big and reputed companies do not easily provide such clearance to workers. Small and bogus companies and their employees are involved in minting money from this set-up.
Embassy officials and labour migration experts say the possibility of getting jobs rather depends upon workers’ skills and experience in the field.
“Most of these workers pay hefty amounts for such jobs. Interestingly, workers with strong financial and educational backgrounds, returnee workers included, follow this path, hoping they would earn more than regular salary,” Gyanwali added.
Workers are often exposed to financial exploitation as they first pay heavy amounts for entering Qatar and later they are asked for a cut while seeking the NOC for other jobs and renewal of visa.
“Many companies and their HR officers do it for commission and bear no liability of workers. However, they often create hassles for workers by not renewing their visas and demanding commission in return,” added Baniya.
Once they fail to get jobs and remain stranded without stable income, they contact the Nepal embassy for their rescue and repatriation.
The latest report of 16 Nepali workers stranded in Qatar for months without jobs is also connected with the same case of free visa. Workers had paid up to Rs200,00 for jobs in Qatar.
“There is no fixed number of workers who have been victim of such fraud visiting the embassy, but they do contact the embassy regularly,” said Gyanwali.
The influx of Nepali workers into the embassy after being trapped with the free visa scheme has however come down in last few months since the government came up with a directive that made it mandatory for employers to get their worker demand letter verified from the Nepali missions abroad.
“Cases that we are still seeing are from the old demand letters. The validity of demand letters is two years. We hope such cases would not repeat from next year maybe,” Gyanwali told the Post.
Published on: 19 April 2019 | The Kathmandu Post