Hundreds of migrant workers continue to get swindled despite several laws in place.
The Department of Foreign Employment has received around 800 complaints against fraud overseas job agents and agencies in the last nine months. The complainants have requested for the recovery of Rs 373m from fraud agents and agencies. Nearly half of them were defrauded off about Rs 232m by individual agents.
These fraud victims are entitled to get a total of Rs 600m in compensation, but most of them have not, as the department has been unable to deal with the complaints swiftly. The department already has many pending cases from the previous years.
Out of around 800 complaints filed in the last nine months, only 45 cases have been registered for legal aid and 150 cases are under review. The department also brokered settlements in 73 cases and provided nearly Rs 55m to the victims. Forty-seven job agencies were also made to pay Rs 14m in compensation.
“The majority of cases are concerning agents and agencies charging high fees from workers with the false promise of jobs abroad,” says Shesh Narayan Poudel, director-general of the department.
Cases of workers getting sent for jobs different than what they had been promised are also fairly common.
“In most cases, we try to negotiate settlements between the victims and the concerned agencies and agents. If that doesn’t work, we take the matter to the court,” says Poudel.
Fraud cases have not been discouraged despite the government announcing ‘Free Visa, Free Ticket’ policy in 2015. This is largely due to the failure of the concerned authorities to enforce the policy and take action against unscrupulous agencies and agents.
Rameshwor Nepal, a labor migration researcher, says many foreign job agencies and agents have adopted the policy of earning by hook or by crook, and the workers are at the receiving end.
“Overseas job industry is rife with frauds,” he says. “This wouldn’t be the case had the laws and regulations brought to protect the workers were implemented strictly.”
Under the ‘Fee Visa, Free Ticket’ rule, it was said, foreign job agencies cannot charge more than Rs 10,000 as a service fee from their clients. But many job agencies have been found charging their clients up to 20 times more than the set ceiling.
Advocate Som Luitel, who specializes in migrant workers’ rights, says many people are becoming victims of fraud from foreign job agencies because they do not know about their legal rights.
“Many victims cannot furnish enough evidence to back up their claims. On top of that, the foreign employment department has also failed to investigate the cases effectively,” he says.
Anandaraj Pant, registrar at the department, says ideally, it should take no longer than three months to settle one case, but many victims don’t get justice for years because they cannot substantiate their claims with evidence.
“Cases involving agents can get particularly hard because they abscond after swindling their victims,” he says.