In 2020 Nepal’s labour ministry called for a
“reduction in misalignments” between different
parts of the government, acknowledging that
inter-agency coordination is a key priority and challenge. There are clear examples where poor
coordination - for example the signing of significant
bilateral MOUs without making plans to establish
diplomatic missions - is likely to directly impact
migrant workers. Domestically, the Department of Foreign Employment’s (DOFE) investigation
capacity and skills have been the subject of
concern for several years and appear out of step
with the scale of the abuses identified in Nepal’s
recruitment industry. A 2020 MOU between DOFE
and the police may help; until recently migrant
workers could not bring recruitment cases to the
police unless they amounted to trafficking, and for
all other cases workers had to file complaints with
the understaffed DOFE in Kathmandu. This should allow police to carry out preliminary investigations
based on worker complaints and to fully investigate
unregistered recruiters, referring only agency cases
to DOFE. DOFE’s regulatory and investigative role
has been severely undermined by corruption, which
can have a direct impact on worker outcomes.
Numerous senior officials have been arrested for
accepting bribes to remove recruitment agencies
from government blacklists.
Kuwait’s sponsorship system tends to undermine
labour protections. Domestic workers, for example,
can be charged with “absconding”, which violates
the country’s immigration law, when they seek to
leave employers who violate their obligations under
the 2015 domestic workers law. Labour inspections have increased in intensity in recent years, though
in many cases these merely involve visits to offices
to check paperwork, without engaging with migrant
workers. Kuwait has increased its capacities to
inspect agencies recruiting domestic workers. The
government’s commitment to inspections and
penalties appears to be closely linked to negative
coverage of labour abuses in the international
media. In 2018, for example, there was a dramatic
spike in inspection activity, which followed
considerable attention over the mistreatment of
Filipino workers. Generally, Kuwaiti authorities
treat labour violations as administrative infractions,
rather than criminal investigations and procedures,
relying on arbitration, fines, and “blacklisting”.
Anti-corruption in relation to the recruitment of
migrants has moved up the government’s agenda in
recent years, with investigations uncovering corrupt
recruitment practices by officials, linked to human
trafficking offences. There is some scepticism about
the government’s commitment to tackling such
practices, with authorities still wary of publicly
pursuing cases against high-ranking officials.
Recommendations to the Government of Nepal:
- Pending the adoption of a zero-cost migration model, fully enforce penalties against recruitment agencies charging fees above the legal limit, in accordance with relevant provisions of the FEA.
- Significantly increase the Department of Foreign Employment’s investigative capacity, by increasing staffing and ensuring that all staff undergo rigorous training.
- Ensure that the signing of the 2020 DOFE-Nepali police MOU is followed up with increased coordination between DOFE and law enforcement authorities and greater involvement by the police in tackling recruitment fraud and abuse
- Increase resources devoted to investigating and prosecuting corruption in DOFE; hold accountable any official accused of demanding or accepting illegal payments for access to government migration programmes, including through referring them to law enforcement agencies, and make information publicly available, on at least an annual basis, on the number and nature of such cases identified.
Recommendations to the Government of Kuwait:
- Continue strengthening the capacity of the labour inspectorate and ensure that it has the necessary resources as well as linguistic and investigatory skills to conduct private interviews with workers during visits and identify cases of serious abuses beyond the non-payment of wages, including in relation to recruitment practices.
- Significantly reform the Public Authority for Manpower’s monitoring of recruitment agencies to ensure it accurately assesses and transparently reports on private employment institutions’ efforts to ensure worker protection, including fee payment and responsiveness to worker grievances.
- Institute labour inspections of private residences hiring domestic workers - including unannounced visits.
- Undertake proactive investigations (and where there is sufficient evidence, criminal prosecutions) into corrupt recruitment practices on the part of employers and recruiters, and human trafficking.