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Nepal Halts Sending Bike Riders and Taxi Drivers to Qatar and Dubai

The authorities have once again resorted to restricting labour mobility instead of addressing the issue, labour migration researchers say.Nepalis going to the UAE as bike riders for delivery jobs is a recent trend. 

Pawan Pandey
23 February 2023
The Kathmandu Post

The Department of Foreign Employment, the government agency which oversees labour migration, has temporarily halted the issuance of prior approval for recruiting agencies for sending bike riders and taxi drivers to Qatar and Dubai.

“We have been receiving complaints, almost daily, that most of the Nepalis who had gone to Dubai and Qatar for bike rider and taxi driver jobs have not been paid on time and remained jobless for a long period after failing to get a licence,” read a statement issued by the department on Monday.

“The Nepalis employed in such jobs have been in accidents and have been charged hefty traffic fines for their inadequate experience and knowledge of traffic rules.”

“It has been decided that the prior approval to send Nepalis for such occupation in these countries will not be issued until further notice as it does not seem secure enough,” the statement added.

The Foreign Employment Rules, 2008 make it mandatory for recruitment agencies to obtain prior approval from the Department of Foreign Employment after getting the demand of workers.

The Nepal government made it compulsory in 2018 for recruiting agencies and foreign companies seeking Nepali migrant workers, to get their work demand letters attested by the Nepali foreign missions based in destination countries.

Though the rule was introduced to prevent aspiring migrant workers from being cheated through fake demand letters, the recruitment agencies have been lobbying to scrap the provision arguing that it has lengthened the recruitment process and created hassles in sending workers to new destination countries, especially to countries where Nepal does not have a diplomatic mission.

The department has requested the diplomatic missions in Dubai and Qatar not to attest the demand letter for such jobs until further notice.

Krishna Prasad Bhusal, information officer at the Department of Foreign Employment, said that there have been more complaints from Nepali workers in Dubai.

“While many Nepalis have failed to get the driving licence, there have also been cases of individuals absconding after getting the licence,” said Bhusal.

Of the 348,867 new labour approvals issued by the department in the last fiscal year ended mid-July, 6.2 percent were for drivers, according to Nepal Labour Migration Report, 2022.

In the last fiscal year, 76,823 new labour permits were issued for Qatar and 53,844 for the United Arab Emirates.

Seven percent of the Qatar-bound workers and 3.8 percent of those going to the UAE got approvals as drivers.

Nepalis going to the UAE as bike riders for delivery jobs is a recent trend, according to Jeevan Baniya, assistant director at the Centre for Study of Labour and Mobility, Social Science Baha, a non-profit organisation involved in research in the social sciences in Nepal.

“Most of Nepali drivers who have gone to the Gulf countries usually operate heavy and light vehicles,” said Baniya.

Baniya, as well as other labour migration researchers, however, argue that the government has once again resorted to restricting labour mobility, instead of addressing the issue. The authorities need to work on ensuring the safety of workers in destination countries, they say.

Rameshwar Nepal, executive director of Equidem Research Nepal, a human rights and labour rights research organisation, said a statement cannot stop labour mobility.

“The latest decision might look appropriate on the surface, but the restrictive step is only going to increase the vulnerability of workers,” said Nepal. “We have already seen the repercussions of such an approach in the labour mobility of women domestic workers to the Gulf.”

“The authorities need to equip foreign-bound workers with the required training and skills before their departure,” Nepal added. “The pre-departure training should be made more effective.”

Meanwhile, the pre-departure orientation training, which provides useful information about the rules and regulations, traffic rules, labour laws and local culture and traditions of the destination country remains poorly implemented.

Some labour migration researchers argued that even the updated curriculum has already become outdated with the ever-changing dynamics in the labour sector.

Bhusal denied that the department intended to restrict labour mobility. “The volume of complaints compelled us to halt the recruitments, temporarily,” said Bhusal. “Many private recruitment agencies are on board with our decision.”

“Besides hassles in getting a licence, finding jobs and receiving regular payments, there have also been instances when the employers have ignored such workers when they faced accidents,” said Rajendra Bhandari, president of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies. “The issue needs to be examined and sorted out, as soon as possible.”

Baniya argued that authorities seem to distance themselves when issues surface in foreign jobs. “Post-departure training to make the workers familiar with their jobs and working conditions might help address the issue to some extent.”

Traffic accidents remain one of the major causes of injury and death of Nepali migrant workers in major destination countries.

Of the 10,666 deaths of migrant workers between the fiscal year 2008-09 and 2021-22, as many as 1,359 were due to traffic accidents.

From 2019-20 to 2021-22, 66 Nepali workers in Qatar and 52 in the UAE were killed in traffic accidents.

The actual figure might be higher as many migrant workers remain undocumented in labour destinations. Labour migration researchers said that effective pre-departure orientation training could significantly reduce the traffic-related vulnerability of the workers.


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