(File pix) Nepal government is ready to continue discussion on the recruitment, employment and repatriation of workers agreement with Malaysia. Reuters Photo

KUALA LUMPUR: Amidst the recent Nepali migrant worker scam, the Nepal government is ready to continue discussion on the recruitment, employment and repatriation of workers agreement with Malaysia, to safeguard the welfare and protect the rights of its workers here.

Nepal’s Charge d’Affaires in Malaysia, Kumar Raj Kharel said the agreement would further provide a clear guidelines in governing the recruitment, employment and repatriation of Nepali workers.

“We hope it (MoU) can be an instrument to protect the rights of our workers,” he told Bernama in an interview here, on Thursday.

The first round of discussion on labour cooperation between Nepal and Malaysia was held in Kathmandu on Feb 20-21, 2017.

Kumar Raj said the MoU could not be agreed then because Malaysia had reservation including the cost of repatriation, who should responsible for air tickets, visa fees and service charges.

“We (Nepal) have been told by ministry officials that there is progress on the Malaysian side and are willing to sign the MoU and conclude it by resolving the differences. Our officials are ready to come as soon as we get an invitation from the Malaysian government for negotiation and signing the agreement.

“Malaysia is still a popular destination as seen by the 500,000 Nepali workers among the country’s multi-racial, cultural and ethnic society and has a more tolerable climate unlike Middle East countries.

In May, it was reported that the sending of workers to Malaysia was temporarily halted by the Nepal government as the workers were charged exorbitant fees for via related services by private companies appointed by the previous Malaysian government.

Following that, the Nepali government launched a crackdown on various institutions collecting extra fees from migrant workers as it was against Nepal’s policy.

The sending of Nepali workers to Malaysia was put on hold as Nepali companies affiliated with the Malaysian side were under investigation as the workers could not process their visas via the companies.

“Between 15,000 to 20,000 workers are still in limbo even after obtaining immigration clearance from Malaysia’s immigration because they are unable to further process their visa from these private companies.’’

Kumar Raj hopes that the Malaysian government, via its embassy in Kathmandu would issue visas directly for the affected group.

“It is not our intention to stop sending workers. We want to send workers but with better arrangement so that they are not exploited. These companies operating in a shady way and violated some of our domestic regulations including the regulation to repatriate money, remit currency to foreign country, charge fees and it is not market driven service. This is just temporary as we clean up these companies,” he added.

Under the previous Malaysian government, Nepali migrant workers were required to apply for work visas through a Kathmandu-based affiliate, Malaysia VLN Nepal.

The process became complex since Nepalis had to go through security and health checks conducted by various private companies with hefty charges as part of the visa requirements.

These include the online registration Migrant Management System (MiGRAMS), One Stop Centre (OSC) to collect visa forms, passports and drop them at embassy, and Immigration Security Clearance (ISC).

The recruitment process was managed under a system developed by the Malaysia government called the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS).

The system was developed by Bestinet Sdn Bhd. However, Bestinet had denied the money laundering allegations.

On July 31, its director Datuk Rathakrishnan Vellaisamy said the company only handled the health screening portion of the foreign workers recruitment process, and were not involved in providing the ISC, VLN (visa) or OSC services.

Kumar Raj said the Nepali government urged the Malaysian government to reduce the visa costs, which is between 18,000 and 19,000 Nepali rupees (about RM700), whereas only RM25 goes to the Malaysian government coffers with the remaining going into these private companies.

“The existing system with exorbitant charges also subject the foreign workers to go through all these companies, hence creating a complex mechanism. Our request is basically bring down the cost, and to streamline, review or revoke these private companies.

’’We want a simple, transparent and cost effective recruitment process particularly the visa aspect. At the moment, we focus on the decision taken by Nepali government to investigate these private companies.

‘’The Nepali government initiated investigation into these companies. As soon as the visa cost is reduced, the existing arrangement of these private companies are reviewed,’’ he added. -- Bernama