Nepal: Strong trade union support for ”free ticket, free visa” scheme

The Nepalese government last July began its ”free ticket, free visa” scheme that obligates employers from countries of destination to bear the costs for visa processing and air ticket to hire workers from Nepal – which until now most often has been borne by migrant workers themselves. 

The regulations concerns all Nepalese workers going to Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. An estimated 2.5 million Nepalese currently work in these seven countries. and the scheme collectively accounts for almost 95 percent documented Nepali migrant workforce (except India) in terms of current volume. 

The scheme aims to bring down the financial burden for migrant families by almost by 80 percent, according to some estimates. Earlier, most of the migrants were reportedly paying upward of NPR 70,000 Nepalese Rupees (660 USD) to work in the GCC countries. 

The free ticket free visa scheme has opposed by the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA) and they have been aggressively lobbying to not only scrap the scheme but also demand an increase in service charges. This has been strongly resisted by the trade unions who have been closely monitoring the developments and rendering all support to make the initiative successful.

Recently on the 4th of April 2016, twenty-three organisations led by trade unions called on the government to not to buckle under from the pressure from recruiting agencies and continue with the free ticket free visa scheme. The delegation submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office conveying the trade unions and civil society groups strong stance and support for the scheme. 

According to Naranath Luitel, Chair of BWI Nepal Affiliates “Workers in Nepal often start their journey under heavy debt to finance their migration in search of elusive dream of a better job with better working conditions. We whole heartedly welcome and support free ticket free visa scheme of the Government of Nepal as this shall go a long way in providing huge financial respite to thousands of Nepalese migrants who leave for foreign shores every year.”